Father and son botanists John and William Bartram first observed the Franklin tree in 1760 in what was then the British colony of Georgia. They found that the tree didn’t belong to any previously known plant genus.
William Bartram returned to Georgia in 1773 to collect seeds and soon successfully grew a Franklin tree in his Philadelphia garden. He named the new species Franklinia alatamaha after his father’s good friend, Benjamin Franklin, and the Altamaha River, where the tree grew in the wild.
The Franklin tree has been extinct in the wild since 1803. The tree you are looking at is directly descended from the original seed collected by William Bartram.
If you’re visiting in the summer, take a moment to smell the flowers. The Franklin tree has sweetly fragrant white blooms that look similar to white camellias.