I'm doing a project for a show in Philadelphia about souvenirs and the Franklin tree, because the show is about souvenirs and Franklin tree fascinates me.
In 1765 Philadelphia botanists, William Bartram discovered a grove of "very curious shrubs" while on an expedition to the Southern Colonies. He brought several seeds back home and cultivated them and named the new genus of plant Franklinia Alatamaha, after his father's great friend, Benjamin Franklin.
It's a small tree, mature at about 20 feet, that produces 3 inch camellia like blooms in mid summer. The fragrant flowers last all the way through until leaves turn dark red in fall.
In all of Bartram's travels he never saw the plant growing anywhere other than in the small grove where he first collected the seeds, and a few years after discovering the plant he returned to the grove to see them and they were gone. Every last one. Flood, change in weather, human interference, no one knows what happened.
A few other botanists claim to have seen the tree in other places, but by 1803 it was gone from the wild altogether.
Still cultivated today, every single Franklin tree that exists is descended from Bartram's seeds.
images from my studio, here, here, and here.