The Franklin Tree is not native to East Tennessee, but is a prized specimen tree in the Arboretum. The Franklin Tree was native only in the Altamaha River valley of Georgia when they were discovered in the late 1700's by John Bartram and his son William. By the early 1800's there were none to be found. Thanks to the Bartram's collecting the seeds of the Franklinia alatamaha and propagating them in their garden outside of Philadelphia the species survived and all existing Franklin Tree's are descendants of the Bartram's Garden. It took many years for the tree to be named and in 1785, after it was learned that it was a unique genus, the Bartram's decided to name it after their dear family friend Benjamin Franklin.
The tree in the Arboretum has found an area that it likes. It is a vary finicky tree to grow, it has a good cold tolerance and also drought resistant, liking more northern climates. It also has the odd characteristic of taken the seed pod 13 to 15 months to mature requiring basically 2 growing seasons.
Franklin Tree Leaves Townsend River Walk & Arboretum