The genomic basis of extinction of the Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha Bartr. ex Marshall)

The oldest Franklinia alatamaha is flowering in the Arnold Arboretum. Photo by Yujing Yan, 2021

Franklinia alatamaha Bartr. ex Marshall (the Franklin tree) is an attractive and iconic species in the Theaceae family. Although loved by many gardeners, it went extinct in the wild in 1800s. Yet the main causes of its extinction are still debated. Interestingly, its close relative, Gordonia lasianthus (L.) Ellis, which is morphologically very similar and shares the same habitat, remains common in the wild.

In this project, I attempt to explore the genomic basis of the extinction.


  • Assembled a high quality reference genome of both species using Nanopore + Illumina sequencing
  • Collected samples of both species from various gardens, herbarium, and traved in southeastern US for three weeks
  • Resequenced the genomes of a dozens of individuals
Yujing Yan, PhD
Yujing Yan, PhD
Harvard University Herbaria Research Fellow

My research interests include biogeography, macroevolution, species diversity patterns and climate change conservation.