July 2023 - Ben Franklin

Common Name:  Ben Franklin Tree, Franklinia 

Botanical Name:  Franklinia alatamaha

Native Range:  Southeastern United States, Zones 5-8. Once found in the wilds of Georgia. Now only available due to nursery cultivation. 

Height:   Typically grows 20-30 feet. 

Spread: Typically grows to a spread of 10-15 feet.

Form: A small deciduous tree with upright spreading branches. Typically sold as a multi-stem shrub.

Growth Rate:  Growth rate is medium depending upon water, fertilizer, and soil.

Sun: Does best in full sun.

Soil: Prefers hummus rich soil, acidic, and well drained.  

Leaf Description:  Dark green 2–6-inch elongated leaves that are half as wide turning orange red in the fall. Simple leaf with slightly serrated leaf margins. 

Fall Color:  Ornamental in fall.  The color turns brilliant orange red. Leaves can remain on plant through November. 

Flower Description: 2–3-inch snow-white 5 petaled flowers, with clusters of golden yellow stamens in the center. Blooms in mid to late summerFlower resembles the Stewartia and Camelia. Flowers are produced on new shoots of the seaso, which means pruning could be accomplished in late winter-early spring without negatively impacting flower display for the next year.

Fruit: Fruits are a woody, five valved capsules which are ½- ¾ inch in diameter that develop into 10 segments each containing several seeds. The fruit develops in the fall after flowering.

Bark Description:  The bark is smooth grayish brown in color with occasional irregular vertical fissures.  

Wildlife Benefit:  Provides a food source to birds and pollinators. 

Tolerates:   Very difficult tree to establish. 

Uses: Used as a specimen tree. Great for areas with minimal space.

Where to be found on Municipal Property: There is a specimen Ben Franklin Tree along the path across from the evergreen garden walking towards Magnolia Hill.

Additional Facts:

  • Discovered in Georgia in 1765 along the Altamaha River.
  • The only tree in its Genus.
  • Naturalist William Bartram named this tree in honor of Benjamin Franklin, a good friend of his father, the early American botanist John Bartram.
  • Related to the Camellia and Stewartia.
  • The tree is extinct in the wild.
  • Also known as Franklin Tea Tree.
  • Avoid stress when trying to establish the tree.


Dirr, M. A.; Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. 2019




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