Sweet Tea Gordonia. This is another one of those incredible plants which comes from the breeding work of Dr. Tom Ranney at North Carolina State University's Mountain Experiment Station, Fletcher, NC. It is a rare intergeneric hybrid, a cross between Gordonia lasianthus, one of our great Deep South natives and another southern native Franklinia alatamaha. This selection captures the great assets of both: the disease resistance of Gordonia and the flowers of Franklinia and Gordonia. The single 5" diameter white Camellia-like lightly fragrant (hence the name 'Sweet Tea') flowers are borne in clusters near or at the terminal bud of each branch from July to October here in zone 8. But unlike Franklinia, it is semi-evergreen. The few leaves that drop in the fall turn a brilliant orange/red. Since one of its parents, Franklinia, is very susceptible to Phytophthora (a root rot fungus disease), one must plant it in well drained soil with uniform moisture, and it is also best sited in full sun with maybe a little afternoon shade here in the Deep South. Its mature height is thought to be between 20' and 30'. The first photo is courtesy of Mike Chelednik.