Mt. Cuba Center, Hockessin, Delaware on August 12, 2022.
A legacy of the Lammot du Pont Copelands
A tree native to the southern US, the Franklin tree has begun to flower in the Mid-Atlantic.
It was discovered by the Philadelphia naturalist John Bartram in 1765 when he was searching the banks of the Altamaha river in Georgia. His son brought back seeds to Philadelphia in 1777.
Named by his son for Benjamin Franklin, – Franklinia alatamaha – the tree was not seen again after 1803 and is thought to be extinct in the wild.
It is preserved in several Philadelphia area gardens.
The tree – a member of the tea family and related also to the camellia – is deciduous, small and symmetrical in shape.
It has a reputation for being difficult to cultivate and reinsertion efforts in the wild have failed.
In gardens of native plants, Franklinia draws all eyes when it flowers because it flowers late when most native shrubs and trees have done with flowers.
Large leaves which turn coral-red-magenta in the autumn. The tree continues to flower with this turning colour.
Its flowers are fragrant.