Jane Teasley thought the scraggly tree on Woodlawn United Methodist Church's front was ugly.
Now that she has learned the tree - with its rough, bumpy trunk, stubby branches and short needles - is rare, she said it looks much better to her.
The tree, a weeping Oriental arborvitae, is native to China and Korea.
"It's pretty now, real beautiful. It becomes pretty once you know it's rare," said Mrs. Teasley, the communications director for the church.
No one really paid attention to the 40-foot tree, Mrs. Teasley said.
"Since Walton Way is so busy, basically everybody parks in the rear parking lot and enters (the church) through the back door," she said.
Mrs. Teasley said she learned the tree was rare after calling to have it and a white spruce cut down. The 30-foot spruce stood closer to the church, Mrs. Teasley said, forcing some of the men to climb on the roof every three or four months to sweep off the needles.
Bobby Temenak, of Stallion Tree Professionals, said he would cut down the spruce but not the arborvitae, because it's rare.
Mrs. Teasley said Mr. Temenak suggested she call arborist Roy Simkins, of Simkins Land Co., who told her it was one of the few Oriental arborvitaes in the United States.
"There used to be a house - the old Langdon house - where the church is," Mrs. Teasley said. "The church used to be on 15th Street, but we bought this lot and built this church in 1967, and the tree was already here. The Langdon house was built in 1840, and at that time Augusta was a river port. Fruitlands nursery owned land where the Augusta National is, and things were brought in on ship from all kind of places.
"We think from the size of (the tree), it was probably planted when the house was built."
Mr. Simkins said there's a similar tree near the Morris Museum of Art.
"I've been curious about that tree for some years, and whenever a real tree guru was in town, I'd take them by and show them the tree," he said.
One such guru is Bob McCartney, one of the three owners of Woodlanders Inc. in Aiken, a specialty nursery.
Mr. McCartney said he first saw Woodlawn's tree in the early 1980s and realized it was "an unusual thing." Intrigued, he identified it, took a few cuttings, propagated them, and is growing a miniature version at the Aiken nursery.
"It's one of many uncommon or unusual trees in the Augusta area that are legacies of the Fruitlands Nurseries. I think there's reasonable certainty it came from Fruitlands," he said.
Mr. Simkins told the church members how to care for the tree.
"We're proud of it now," Mrs. Teasley said.
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