BRUNS plant of the month – September

Franklinia alatamaha – Franklinia, Franklin tree

A rare specimen with a fascinating history

Anyone looking to discover the origin of the line Frank will find an almost unbelievable story. In 1765, the explorer John Bartram is on a botanical expedition on the banks of the Altamaha River in the southern USA (Georgia) with his son William. They discover a very lovely flowering plant which John Bartram names Franklinia alatamaha after his friend Benjamin Franklin and the place of discovery along the river. In 1773, William Bartram travels again to the Altamaha River and collects seeds for Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia.

In 1803, the Franklinia is sighted for the last time in the wild. After that, it will never re-emerge in nature and is thus today considered extinct. Fortunately, there was a collection of seeds from 1773. Seeds and seedlings found their way to other botanical gardens, shrub collections and nurseries via the Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia over the next decades. This means that today, all Franklinia available worldwide are descendants of this collection. The Bruns nursery is in the fortunate position to offer the Franklinia as a container plant.

The Franklin tree grows as a shrub or small tree, reaching a height between 4 and 10 metres. It has summer green foliage with a shiny surface and furry underside. A striking feature are the beautiful white, fragrant bowl-shaped flowers with bright yellow stamens. The late flowering period in September/October makes the shrub particularly cherished. In addition, the Franklinia adorns itself with a colourful autumn foliage in orange, scarlet and burgundy - an effective contrast to the bright colour of the blossoms.

Botanically speaking, Franklinia belongs to the Theaceae and is closely related to the Stewartia genus. It loves sunny places and an evenly moist, humus rich and slightly acidic soil. As the seedlings are somewhat sensitive to frost, they should be protected from the wind as best possible. In addition, a cover with deciduous and spruce twigs is recommended during the first winters. The hardiness of older plants is about -15°C to -20°C.

Its elegant blossom and the magnificent autumn colours of the Franklin tree make it a real highlight in the garden. As it tolerates hot places easily, it can be used as valuable container plant for south-facing terraces. In winter, it should be kept cool in a temperature range of about 0°C to 10°C. Light frosts are tolerated well in the container.