FRANKLINIA alatamaha

FAMILY: Theaceae

TYPE
  • Deciduous
  • Trees
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
  • Partial Shade
WATER
  • Regular Water
PLANTING ZONES
  • US (Upper South) / Zone 6
  • MS (Middle South) / Zone 7
  • LS (Lower South) / Zone 8

Plant Details

This legendary tree, native to the banks of Georgia's Alatamaha River, mysteriously disappeared from the wild shortly after it was discovered there in 1770 by famed botanist John Bartram. All plants in commerce today can be traced to the ones he collected. Open, airy form; may reach 30 feet but more typically grows 1020 feet high. Tree tends to be fairly slender when grown with a single trunk; when grown as a multitrunked plant, it is broad spreading. Attractive dark gray bark has faint white vertical striping. Shiny, dark green leaves are spoon-shaped to oblong and pointed, 46 inches long; they turn orange and red in fall and hang on for a long time before dropping. Fragrant, white, 3 inches- wide, five-petaled flowers centered with clusters of yellow stamens open from round white buds from July to early October, sometimes coinciding with fall foliage color in the Upper South. Blossoms somewhat resemble single camelliasnot surprising, since Franklinia and Camellia belong to the same family. Flowers are followed by small, woody capsules that are split into ten segments, each containing five seeds. Highly decorative lawn or accent tree. Especially nice for contrast in azalea or rhododendron plantings.

Provide moist, rich, light, acid soil. Good drainage is critical. Not the easiest plant to grow. Susceptible to phytophthora root rot, a fatal soil-borne disease, in heavy, wet soils during hot weather. Grows well in light shade but has best bloom and fall color in full sun. Easy to grow from seed, blooming in 6 to 7 years.

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