Franklinia alatamaha, growing at my home in Oranda. The tree is surrounded by a circle of pink resurrection lilies which bloom in July and August at the same time as the tree.
When my brother died unexpectedly 7 years ago, I decided to honor his life by planting a tree. I came across a little native tree called Franklinia alatamaha, the Franklin tree. It was discovered in October, 1765, by John Bartram and his son William, the American botanists, growing in southeastern Georgia along the Altamaha River. William brought seeds of the tree back to Philadelphia in 1777 and by 1781 had cultivated flowering trees. The tree was named Franklinia alatamaha in honor of John’s friend, Benjamin Franklin. The Franklin tree is now extinct in the wild and all plants today are descended from the seeds that William Bartram collected in the 18th century and propagated at Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia.
My brother’s name was Franklin. He was born in October and, in his youth, had red hair which turned prematurely white.
In the fall, the Franklin tree has beautiful red foliage. It is graced with elegant white camelia-like blossoms in the summer. Franklinia alatamaha is special in its singularity of species, the only one of its kind.
I don’t think I could have found a tree more appropriate to my brother’s memory.
Frank’s tree in flower, photographed in late July