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Franklinia alatamaha (Franklin tree)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Franklinia alatamaha

Franklinia alatamaha W. Bartram ex Marshall

Franklin Tree, Franklintree, Franklinia

Theaceae (Tea Family)

Synonym(s): Gordonia alatamaha, Gordonia pubescens


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

A small tree or shrub, 10-20 ft. in height, with upright, spreading branches, often leafless in their lower reaches, giving the plant an airy appearance. Beautiful, large, white flowers and an open crown of upright branches. Trunks assume a slight fluted shape. Leaves are dark, shiny-green above, pubescent below, turning orange and red in the fall. Showy, solitary, 3 in. wide, 5-petaled white flowers have a center of yellow stamens and are fragrant.

Franklinia is grown for its handsome flowers, borne in September, and its showy autumnal foliage as well as for its historical interest. It was discovered in 1765 by John Bartram and his son William, botanists from Philadelphia; it apparently even then occupied only two or three acres. In 1773 and 1778, William returned to obtain seeds and plants, but it has not been seen wild since 1790. It may have been exterminated by wholesale collecting for shipment to London nurseries or destroyed by natural causes such as flooding. Named by William Bartram for Benjamin Franklin and for the Altamaha River (then spelled Alatamaha), where it was discovered.


From the Image Gallery

3 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 20 feet tall.
Leaf: White-Gray

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct


Native Distribution: Discovered once along the Altamaha R. in GA
Native Habitat: Moist sites

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist, acid, well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: Best flowering and fall color occur in full sun. Because some of the best specimens of this sp. occur north of its native range, there is speculation that a disease associated with cotton infests Frankliniana causing poor performance.


Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Description: Sow seeds as soon as the fruit matures. Easily propagated from cuttings taken in late summer or fall.
Seed Collection: Do not allow collected seed to dry.
Seed Treatment: Best germination occurs after 30 days cold stratification.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Franklinia alatamaha in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Franklinia alatamaha in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Franklinia alatamaha


Record Modified: 2023-05-23
Research By: TWC Staff

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