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
Butterfly bush Buddleia davidii
Crape Myrtle Lagerstroemia indica
Dwarf Abelia Abelia x grandiflora
Franklin Tree Franklinia alatamaha
Hydrangea Hydrangea spp.
Black Eyed Susan Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’
Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa
Geranium Geranium sanguineum
Goldenrod Solidago spp.
Japanese Anemone Anemone x ‘Honorine Jobert’
Pink Turtlehead Chelone oblique
Plantain Lily Hosta spp.
Summer Phlox Phlox paniculata
Sunflower Heliopsis Heliopsis helianthoides
Yellow Corydalis Corydalis lutea
The Franklin Tree
The native Franklin Tree ( Franklinia alatamaha ) is much appreciated at this time of year when summer is over and fall is just beginning. From August into late September the Franklin Tree produces beautiful 3”, 5-petaled, fragrant flowers filling a void in our landscapes. The flowers are similar in appearance to single white Camellia flowers. Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds also appreciate the nectar from this late bloomer. After flowering the dark green leaves of the Franklin Tree provide red/orange color 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 (zones 5-6), but benefits from a site that provides some protection from strong winter winds.
Although a native tree, it has not been seen in the wild since the early 1800’s. The existence of the Franklin Tree today is credited to John Bartram and his son William. John Bartram was considered one of America’s earliest botanists. In 1765 John and William discovered a small tree growing along the banks of the Alatamaha River in Georgia that they had never seen before. They eventually found it growing over a 2-3 acre area, but never saw it on any of their other extensive travels. William Bartram planted seeds that they had collected from this tree in their Pennsylvania garden in 1778. The tree was named Franklinia alatamaha after their family friend Benjamin Franklin and Alatamaha, Georgia where the Bartrams had collected the original seeds. Today all Franklin Trees are only grown in cultivation.
Some nice specimens of the Franklin Tree and their flowers can be seen at Lasdon Park in the garden located at the top of the wall just above the Lasdon Conservatory. Another beautiful Franklin Tree is located near the beginning of the Famous and Historic Tree Trail. Stop by on your next visit to see this beautiful native tree, which was saved from extinction.