Today Bartram’s Garden’s living collections encompass 45 acres of parkland, wildlife habitats, tidal wetlands, and a reclaimed meadow. Our historic core is fundamentally a collection of Bartram plants – species collected, grown, and studied by the Bartram family from 1728 – 1850, with a focus on native plants of eastern North America, although a wide range of exotic plants were also under cultivation in each generation.
The Garden’s signature tree, Franklinia alatamaha, was discovered by John and William Bartram in 1765 in a small grove along the Altamaha River in southern Georgia. William Bartram first brought seed back to the garden in 1777 and named the plant Franklinia in honor of his father’s close friend Benjamin Franklin. The plant has not been found in the wild since the early 19th century but cultivation by the Bartrams has saved the Franklin tree from extinction. All current Franklinia are descended from those grown by the Bartrams.
This male tree is believed to be the oldest gingko or maidenhair tree, Ginkgo biloba, in North America. It was one of three original gingko trees sent to the U.S. from London in 1785 by William Hamilton of The Woodlands. Hamilton gave one gingko tree to William Bartram and planted two in the landscape garden at The Woodlands. The trees at the Woodlands were cut down in the 1980’s.
One of the Garden’s oldest trees, the yellowwood, Cladrastis kentukea, was discovered in central Tennessee by the French plant explorer Andre Michaux in 1796 and sent to William Bartram at the beginning of the 19th century. The historic yellowwood was heavily damaged during a wind storm in June 2010, but is growing again and recovered from similar storms in the past.
John Bartram first discovered specimens of the Bartram oak, Quercus x heterophylla, a rare but naturally occurring hyprid of red and willow oak on the nearby estate, The Woodlands, upriver from Bartram’s Garden.