Franklinia alatamaha

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Franklinia alatamaha - Franklin tree
Common name: Franklin tree
Family: Theaceae (Tea)
Distribution: SE Georgia, USA
Habitat: Acidic sand-hill bogs on low wet soils, 0-33ft (0-10 meters)
Hardiness: -20 - 20 F
Life form: Deciduous tree
Bloom Time: July to August
Fall color: Orange, red, purple
Foliage characteristics: Narrow, oblong-obovate, glossy dark green leaves. 5" (12.7 cm) long.
Fruit characteristics: Round, hard, ripen to brown.
Average height: 10-20' (3-6 meters)
Structure: Round
Bloom characteristics: Camellia-like, cup-shaped, 5 petaled flowers. Fragrant. 3" (7.6 cm) diameter.
Description: While easily found on Smithsonian grounds, the Franklin tree is a bit of a mystery in the plant world. First discovered in 1765 by a father and son team along a section of the Altamaha River in Georgia, by the early 1800s, all traces of the tree in the wild had disappeared. Theories explaining its disappearance abound: fire, flood, overcollection by eager plant hunters, or even a fungal disease spread by cotton plantations have all been hypothesized. Several plant expeditions have returned to the original area John and William Bartram discovered the Franklin tree, but to no avail. Now the only Franklin trees in existence are descendants of the seeds originally collected by the Bartrams.
William Bartram named the Franklin tree in honor of Benjamin Franklin, a good friend of his father.
Links: Missouri Botanical Garden Plant FinderNew York TimesUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service


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