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Dawes Arboretum. August 17, 2003. I was trekking through the Dawes and saw this guant, leggy tree and headed for the prized photo-hunting in the conifer valley, giving it just a glance. Something told me to check out what I thought was a rather weakly Stewartia of some kind. The nearby path was called the Rare Tree Walk for some reason after all. And at the Dawes one is apt to be very wrong if you assume you know the identity of any plant at several paces - many of them turn out to be very rare cultivars or relatives of what you think it will be. I'm glad I did and have this picture to share with you. (I tried to get the bee to dance atop the stamens for a better shot but in 10 minutes he refused). It turned out to be a Franklinia alatamaha which I'd never seen in flower anywhere ever.

The tree is considered extinct in the wild or least only around there due to careful replanting. All plants in the world's gardens supposedly trace to Bartam's Philly garden, meaning the gene pool is likely quite narrow. Rumor has it that has been seen a time or two in the wild but documentation and confirmation are wanting to my knowledge. It seems likely that at least one disease wiped it out back in the late 1700's or early 1800's. We are probably pretty darn lucky we know about it at all. Bartram was a true patriot and hero, every bit as great a man as the guy this tree is named for. If you kids don't know about him there's a good summer reading project or book report. It makes we wonder what other species were lost long before organized botanizing and curation could preserve them. We know from the fossil record that North America had lots of strange and good things that just could be as hard to find as bigfoot and like Metasequoia could some day dazzle us with their mystery. Let's hope...



Franklinia alatamaha 'Wintonberry' (3/01)

ha: more vigorous than species typical - which is sometimes a problem
ch: greater cold hardiness in northern US
or: found as a large tree in CT USA
Roslyn Nursery