Written by Tolly Beck
Tolly Beck is the horticulturist at Lasdon Park and Arboretum in Westchester County. She was formerly a horticulture educator for New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland, NY.
What’s in Bloom at Lasdon
Franklinia Franklinia alatamaha
Bush Cinquefoil Potentilla fruiticosa
Cranesbill Geranium sanguinium
Daylily Hemerocallis spp
Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia fulgida
Sunflower Heliopsis Heliopsis helianthoides
Yellow Corydalis Pseudofumaria lutea
The Franklin Tree
Magnolia, Cherry and Plum trees are often planted in yards, gardens and parks for their beautiful flowers that signal the arrival of spring. After the flowers have faded the trees provide welcome shade, but little color. This is where the native Franklin Tree ( Franklinia alatamaha ) can fill the void.
The Franklin Tree produces beautiful 3”, 5-petaled, fragrant flowers from August into late September. The flowers are similar in appearance to single white Camellia flowers. After flowering the dark green leaves of the Franklin Tree turn red/orange in the fall.
The Franklin Tree makes an excellent small specimen tree as it is 15-20’ high and 10- 15’ wide. It is best planted in moist, acid, well-drained soil in full sun or part shade. The Franklin Tree is hardy in our area, but benefits from a site that provides some protection from strong winter winds.
Although a native tree, it has not been found in the wild since the early 1800’s and is considered extinct. The existence of the Franklin Tree today is credited to John Bartram and his son William. John Bartram is often considered America’s earliest botanist. In 1765 John and William discovered a tree growing along the banks of the Alatamaha River in Georgia that they had not seen before. They planted seeds of this tree in their garden in Pennsylvania. The tree grew into a beautiful specimen and was named Franklinia alatamaha after John Bartram’s good friend Benjamin Franklin. All current Franklinia are descended from those grown by the Bartrams.
A nice specimen of the Franklin Tree can be seen at Lasdon Park near the beginning of the Famous and Historic Tree Trail. It will be in flower in August and September.