Botanist's Lens: Saving the Endangered and Extirpated

Franklinia alatamaha 'Franklin tree'

Saving and learning about extant, endangered and threatened species should be a resolution for every year, every season and for every gardener. One of my 2019 resolutions was to keep learning from and staying engaged with the current list of plants whose habitats are threatened and endangered. The IUCN Red list (International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List) of Threatened Species is the world's most comprehensive list to read and learn from.

The IUCN for example has the following information on Franklinia alatamaha, the 'Franklin tree', "Numerous expeditions to relocate the plant have failed".

Franklin tree is extirpated, meaning it is no longer found growing in the wild. The IUCN has added it in the EW category- Extinct in the Wild. There are of course many populations found on cultivated lands and gardens all over. "The extirpation of the Franklin tree from the native flora of the Southeastern United States was the first example of the extinction of a North American plant for which we have historic documentation". (

Stewartia sps.

"Franklinia belongs to the tea family and is closely related to Stewartia and Gordonia (loblolly bay). It is not known why this tree disappeared in the wild. Land along the Altamaha River was cleared for cotton plantations leading to one theory that a cotton pathogen found in the soil (carried downstream through erosion) was the main cause of the extinction of the colony. Other extinction theories include decline from climate change, destruction by man, single colony of plants was not genetically diverse enough to withstand pathogens or changing conditions, or a local disaster (flood or fire).Genus name honors Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), American printer, scientist, philosopher and statesman". (

One of the most satisfying moments of 2019 for me in the gardens, was when I saw a delicate pearl white flower growing on a newly established planting of a young Franklin tree in the spring walk. Along with the Franklin tree, we added Stewartias, Azaleas, Magnolias and many Camellias. All thanks to the Stanley Smith Historical Trust, who generously donated a grant which helped us in restoring and replenishing lost collections. It allowed us to do our part in displaying extirpated species and restoring habitats.

My goal of continuing to learn about species whose habitats are getting threatened continues into 2020, with an added resolution to learn about impacts of the decline of a species on the habitat as a whole. Would you like to share your green resolution for 2020?

Added with the picture of the Franklin tree flower are some highlight pictures of 2019, flower extravaganza from London Town! Hope you have a flourishing and a green new year, Happy 2020!

Oriental Lilies

Hybrid tea Rose

Rudbeckia fulgida 'Black eye Susan'

Rhododendron 'Dexter'

Anemone coronaria 'Blue Poppy'

Tricyrtis sp. 'Toad Lily'

Calla lily

Anemone hupehensis 'Pink Saucer'

#endangered #extirpated #franklinia #franklintree #iucn

43 views0 comments