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Bartrams Brought Franklinia To Philly

(credit: Phran Novelli)

(credit: Phran Novelli)

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By Phran Novelli

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Just before the hurricane blew through I was surprised to still see flowers on our Franklinia tree. A small specimen that grows to about 15 feet, John Bartram found them growing along a river in Georgia in the 1700’s, and his son later went back to collect seeds.

All the Franklinias that exist today came from the trees the Bartrams grew from those seeds in their Philadelphia gardens, and named in honor of Ben Franklin. You can often get one at Bartram’s plant sales, as I did 10 years ago, planting it in full sun with good drainage and a little protection from the wind.

Franklinia blooms in August when most trees have long finished flowering. But this year, ours kept blooming on through October – its bright white flowers quite a sight against the Franklinia‘s ruby red fall foliage.

The big storm knocked the final flowers to the ground, but the leaves held on strong – just another symbol of the Franklinia‘s remarkable endurance. A lovely little tree that might have disappeared forever if not for the Bartrams smartly saving some seeds centuries ago.