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Lander Observes Arbor Day

Posing alongside the Franklinia alatamaha planted on the campus of Lander University in observation of Arbor Day are, from left, Dr. Dewitt Stone, chair of Lander's Arboretum Committee; Joann Purkerson, president of the Greenwood Council of Garden Clubs; Lander associate professor of biology Dr. Michael Runyan; Lander assistant professor of biology Dr. Austin Trousdale; and Greenwood mayor Welborn Adams.

Lander University marked Arbor Day Friday with the planting of a Franklinia alatamaha on the high ground between the amphitheatre and the rear of Laura Lander Hall.

It's the sixth year that Lander's Arboretum Committee has teamed up with the Greenwood Council of Garden Clubs to beautify the Lander campus, according to Arboretum Committee chair Dr. Dewitt Stone, who added the two groups are responsible for recent plantings of camellias, azaleas, hydrangeas and crape myrtles as well.

The Franklinia alatamaha "has a reputation of being somewhat difficult to grow," in the words of Lander assistant professor of biology Dr. Austin Trousdale. To increase the odds of survival, Stone planted a second specimen last week, in a wooded area near the president's house.

Both trees, and every other Franklinia alatamaha in existence, are descended from seeds collected by the American botanists John and William Bartram during an expedition through the deep South in 1765 and 1766. The specimens the Bartrams discovered growing along the banks of the Altamaha River, in southeastern Georgia, were the first that westerners had seen, and when botanists returned to the area in later years, no further specimens were found.

Trousdale described the Franklinia alatamaha, named by William Bartram to honor his father, John's, friend, Ben Franklin, as "a striking tree at different times of the year." He said the fragrant blossoms the tree produces during the late summer are "reminiscent of an egg served sunnyside-up." In the fall, he said, the leaves turn red, orange or purple, producing "a very dramatic effect."

Greenwood mayor Welborn Adams, one of the speakers at the Arbor Day ceremony, called the act of planting a tree "one of the most progressive things you can do. On behalf of the City of Greenwood, I'd like to thank you for keeping Greenwood green."