Franklinia Altamaha and the Paw Paw: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 49

William Bartram’s Seed Gathering Excursion

It is only thanks to William Bartram, and his Father, John Bartram, that the Franklinia Altamaha, or Franklin Tree, survives. John Bartram discovered a grove of it growing on the banks of the Altamaha River in Georgia, and sent his son to gather the seeds.  Take a moment to listen to my reading of William’s Seed Gathering Excursion:

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Franklinia Altamaha Leaves by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

 

A Thriving Business…

John Bartram had a thriving business, selling exotic seeds, cuttings, and roots to a leisure class in Great Britain, who were competing with one another to see who could grow the most exotic plants. Hence the seeds of the Franklinia were saved and propagated, and hence too poison ivy made its way to England.  Meanwhile the tree itself went extinct in the wild, and can no longer be found on the banks of the Altamaha in Georgia.

Franklinia Leaves Against the Sky by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Franklinia Leaves Against the Sky by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

The Clash of Agriculture…

The seeds, I came to understand from Bartram’s Gardens in Philadelphia, are notoriously difficult to germinate. Which may explain why the tree went extinct in Georgia. Also, although the Europeans didn’t recognize it as agriculture they know, the Native American People may have had much to do with the grove growing along the Altamaha.They practiced a forest agriculture, nurturing the trees and their companion plants and animals to present the bounty of Nature. (As reported in Lecture: “A Cherokee Looks at William Bartram,” by Tom Belt, Elder-in Residence, Cherokee Language Instructor at Western Carolina University) This Bounty Europeans quickly exploited in favor of their own form of agriculture, sometimes with obviously disastrous consequences.

Providence Canyon Pine by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Providence Canyon Pine by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Erosion from European Agriculture…

This can easily be seen at Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon, Providence Canyon, on the western border of the state, where over farming caused the land to erode dramatically in the 1800’s, within 100 years of Bartram’s exploration of the western portion of Georgia.  Sadly, unwittingly, William Bartram may have opened up the western portion of Georgia to exploitation through his explorations.
So it took a journey to Bartram’s Gardens in Philadelphia to photograph the Franklinia Altamaha. It was spring when we arrived, and the Franklin Tree was not in bloom. However, I got this amazing photograph of its leaves against a changing sky; the clouds moving in contrasting to the deep blue of the sky to look like a mountain in the distance.

Franklinia Altamaha Tree by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels  on the Bartram Trail

Franklinia Altamaha Tree by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

Below is a Possible Perception of the Franklinia Altamaha taken from the image above. It is from the picture above, with the blue of the sky forming a pentagram, and the white of the sky defining it, and the fresh new leaves forming a lacey covering.

Franklinia Altamaha Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

Franklinia Altamaha Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

Paw Paw

Like William, a short distance away from the Franklin Tree we found the Paw Paw Tree which was in bloom. Its blossoms are red to red-brown, and it is fertilized not by bees but by flies.

Ogeechee Lime Blossom by Beth Thompson: from Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail

Paw Paw Blossom by Beth Thompson: from Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail

The Paw Paw Blossom Image became the Paw Paw Possible Perception Below:

Ogeechee Lime Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

Paw Paw Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

While I have many photos of blossoming trees from following Bartram all over the Southeast and up to his home in Philly, I have yet to encounter Nyssa ogeche, or the Ogeechee Lime Tree. However, I had to discover this fact by first mistakenly confusing the Ogeechee Lime and Paw Paw Tree both in my blog and in an exhibition. Then I dug through my files for a looked over photo of the Ogeechee Lime Tree, which I did not find.

My deepest apologies for any confusion I may have inadvertently caused online as to the blossoms of the 2 trees. For myself, I will take to heart my suspicion that there is more than 52 blog posts to my journeys on the Bartram Trail, and more to be revealed.

*Opening stanza of recording from “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare

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