Historic Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia has been conducting a census of franklinia trees to determine how many and where these trees are growing. Botanist John Bartram discovered a wonderful tree in Georgia in 1765, which he named Franklinia alatamaha after his friend Ben Franklin. This relative of camellias and stewartias no longer grows in the wild, so to measure how widely it has spread in cultivation, Bartram's Garden asked growers to register their trees.
Now the early census results are in: Bartram's received almost 2,000 responses from 35 states and eight foreign countries. The largest concentration of trees is on the East Coast--the Philadelphia area registered 30 percent of the total, followed by North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. A surprising number of franklinias are found in Oregon, and as far away as Italy and New Zealand, too.
"People are passionate about their franklinia strees," says Martha Leigh Wolf, executive director of Historic Bartram's Garden. "They tell us... how they pamper their trees."
In the right spot, though, franklinias don't need pampering. They do best in a protected area with partial shade, but they require perfect drainage. Says Wolf, "Ideally a tree would grow in 12 to 15 inches of sandy or porous soil, with a clay base below it that would retain moisture."
Bartram's has compiled a list of nurseries that supply the trees. Contact them at
to register your tree or find more information.