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Franklin Tree Franklinia alatamaha

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Gordonia alatamaha
  • Gordonia pubescens var. subglabra
  • Lacathea florida
Phonetic Spelling
frank-LIN-ee-uh uh-la-tah-MAH-hah
Description

Franklin tree, a small flowering tree in the tea family (Theaceae), native to Georgia, usualy grows with a single-trunk with an airy rounded crown but it can also be a multi-trunked shrub. It typically grows to 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide so it is a versatile small flowering tree.

Ideal growing conditions include full sun, with some afternoon shade the summer, and acidic soil that is moist and well-drained.  It will bloom from mid-summer until the first frost with large, showy, fragrant white flowers.    

Plant as a patio or specimen tree where the fragrance can be enjoyed or in the back of a border.  Its stature makes it a good choice for small spaces. It can be difficult to transplant because of a sparsely fibrous root system, so plan well when choosing its planting location. This is a lovely tree but it can struggle in urban conditions and is intolerant of drought.

Seasons of Interest: 

     Leaves: Fall; Bloom: Late Summer early Fall, showy

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: Sawflies do eat these trees.  Do not plant where cotton has been grown as there is a pathogen that affects cotton that also affects Franklin trees.  Wilt and root rot can also be serious problems. Consider planting in raised beds in areas with heavy clay.   In general, this tree has a reputation for being difficult to grow.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#specimen#slow growing#winter interest#fall interest#flowering tree#airy#mid-summer flowers#late summer flowers#border back#patio planting#patio tree#early fall flowers#difficult to grow#container plants
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#specimen#slow growing#winter interest#fall interest#flowering tree#airy#mid-summer flowers#late summer flowers#border back#patio planting#patio tree#early fall flowers#difficult to grow#container plants
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Franklinia
    Species:
    alatamaha
    Family:
    Theaceae
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Georgia, US
    Dimensions:
    Height: 10 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 6 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Multi-trunked
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Woody round dehiscent five valved capsule 1/2 to 1 inch that remains on the tree through the winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    3-6 inches
    Flower Description:
    Sweetly fragrant; 3 in. white camellia-like flowers 5 cup-shaped petals with egg yolk yellow stamens late summer early fall. Flower buds are round with 2 wings on either side.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Orange
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    5" long glossy, narrow, oblong, green simple leaves with finely serrated margins, turn red, orange, and purple with fall color. The base is cuneate with a short petiole, and an acute apex. Leaves curl in a bit, are shiny, and have a thin linear reddish midvein on the top toward the base of the leaf. Undersides of leaves are lighter.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Ridges
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Smooth light gray vertical fissures or striations become rough and darker gray at the base as the tree matures.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Patio
    Small Space
    Landscape Theme:
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Small Tree
    Specimen