One reason the Ben Franklin tree is grown is because it is attractive: fragrant, 3-inch flowers with delicate white petals and thick, bushy golden stamens, and foliage that is handsome, with outstanding fall coloration (red, purple, orange). But mostly it is grown because it is rare and has a great story. In colonial days, John Bartram, the king’s official botanist for the colonies, came across a stand of this small, ornamental tree on the banks of the Altamaha River in Georgia. He and one of his sons, William, grew this tree in their garden in Philadelphia (America’s first botanical garden), and named the tree after a friend of the family, Ben Franklin. The tree has been documented to occur naturally nowhere else than these few acres next to the river, and disappeared even from there in the early 19th century. So all of the living specimens of this species are descended from the collections of the Bartrams. “They” say the Ben Franklin tree is easier to grow in a pot than in soil, and happier in the north than in the south where it was native. It can be finicky, preferring well drained sandy soil with lots of irrigation in dry times, susceptible to root rot, but when it is happy it is happy and a treat to look at. Skinny if grown as a single stem, it is quite full and impressive when grown multi-stemmed, flowering from July into fall, even as the foliage is turning colorful. It is in the Theaceae, along with Camellias, Gordonia, and Stewartias.