Discovered in 1765 by the famous Philadelphia botanist, John Bartram, this tree has an interesting history. While on an expedition with his son William near the mouth of the Alatamaha River in Georgia, he discovered the tree growing on the sandy banks of the river. He took several specimens home to his gardens and named them after his good friend and fellow botanist and scientist Benjamin Franklin. The tree was spotted by William Bartram in 1773 and by plant hunter John Lyon in 1803, but disappeared from the wild with no known cause. It is speculated that a root disease was introduced by cotton in the southern plantations and it killed off all of the wild stock. To this day, it is believed that every Franklinia in existence came from Bartrams private collection.
The Franklinia Tree is best moved when small and does best in a fertile well-drained soil. Hardy from USDA Zones 5 to 8, it will grow 15 to 20 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide. It is multi-stemmed with smooth gray bark broken by vertical white stripes. Planted in full sun, flowering and fall color will be at its best. The leaves are narrow and about 6 inches long turning a deep red in fall similar to the Flowering Dogwood. Its 3 inch wide white flower has 5 petals and a yellow center, resembling a camellia. Since Franklinias bloom in August when other trees are finished flowering, it makes for a beautiful lawn specimen.