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New Ornamental Plant Hybrid

New Ornamental Hybrid Created at MHC

Plant breeders at NC State University have created a new plant. Dr Tom Ranney, Professor of Horticulture at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station near Fletcher, NC has created a new plant for gardeners in the South. The plant is an intergeneric hybrid between the Franklinia alatamaha x Schima argentea.


A small population of Franklinia alatamaha trees were discovered by John and William Bartram along the banks of the Altamaha River in Georgia in 1765. Seeds were collected from these trees over a number of years, but the species has not been seen in the wild since 1790. Although the Franklinia is considered extinct in the wild, it persists in cultivation and makes an attractive landscape tree. This species is valued for its showy white flowers and bright crimson/maroon fall foliage color. Considering its southern origins, it is surprising that it tolerates winter temperatures as low as -38 C (Dr Mike Dirr, 1998). However Franklinia tends to be short lived in the landscape and is known to be very susceptible to Phytophthora root rot.

The Schima is a genus of trees and shrubs native to western China, Assam and Taiwan. Unlike the Franklinia, the Schima has glossy evergreen foliage. It is valued for its late summer flowers and as a landscape plant in mild climates. Common to warm temperate and tropical regions of southern and southeastern Asia, Schimas are often used for fodder, fuel, poles and timber. They have a broad distribution and are often used in Asia for afforestation due to their adaptability and tolerance to a wide range of environments, including dry sites, infertile soils and clay soils. The plants used for this project were Schima argentea. This species has been observed to be undamaged as low as -9 C in Chapel Hill, NC (Dr Cliff Parks, personal observation).

Results of the Controlled Crosses                                    
frankliniaxschimaPictured are the two parent plants and the new plant hybrid. Flowering shoots of Franklinia alatamaha (left), the new NC State Schimlinia hybrid (center) and Schima argentea (right) are shown.

Hybridization between Franklinia and Schima could potentially combine the cold hardiness and desirable ornamental characteristics of Franklinia with greater adaptability, utility and genetic diversity of Schima. Controlled crosses were made between Franklinia atatamaha (female parent) and Schima argentea (male parent) in August and September 1999 and 2000 at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station, Fletcher, NC, under the direction of Dr Tom Ranney. A total of 83 hybrids were propagated from seed in 2000 and 2001. Growth was fast and many of the seedlings attained heights greater than 2 meters and flowered within 9 months of germination. Characteristics of the new hybrids clearly demonstrate the traits of both parent species.

A New Plant and A New Name

Schimlinia CharacteristicsDr Tom Ranney's plant breeding work is apparent with this xSchimlinia floribunda photograph taken at the MHC Research Station near Fletcher, North Carolina.

The intergeneric hybridization between Franklinia and Schima was achieved and constitutes the first intergeneric cross involving these two plant species. Because the hybrid is from two different plant genera, the proposed generic name is xSchimlinia floribunda. The resulting hybrids have dark to medium evergreen foliage that turns burgundy colored after frost. All have white flowers in late summer(Aug) that range from 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Due to the parental origins in southern Georgia and southeast Asia, it is anticipated that the new Schimlinia hybrids will be cold hardy to Climate Zones 7b and 8.

Photographs courtesy of Dr Tom Ranney, Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station, Fletcher, NC. For more information contact Dr Ranney at Tom_Ranney@ncsu.edu .

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