Augusta has its share of historic spots, but did you know the area also has some notable trees? According to the University of Georgia Richmond County Extension Agent Campbell Vaughn, there’s a good chance that you’ve driven past some of these horticultural gems on your way to the grocery store or office.
“Blue Peter’s Tree”
Aiken Training Track infield
Blue Peter’s Tree is a live oak that is about 100 years old, according to Vaughn. “Blue Peter, who is a member of the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame, was 1948’s champion 2-year-old colt.” Many of pictures have been taken of horses galloping past this tree and it’s been in the movies. Vaughn says that people have been married beneath the tree.
Also of note, Blue Peter was the son of the 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral and he lies beneath the tree, according to Vaughn. “After capturing the honor of ‘Outstanding 2-Year-Old Male’ in 1948, Blue Peter arrived in Aiken as the pre-Derby favorite. As a sports writer buddy of mine tells it, ‘He stepped off the trailer and dropped dead.’ The ailment was not disclosed. They buried Blue Peter in a ceremony under the oak. Some believe it may have been out of convenience.”
Corner of Boy Scout and Skinner Mill Roads in front of Augusta Swim Supply
This Sycamore tree, with its four trunks, “is massive, especially for a street tree,” according to Vaughn. “The huge canopy when the leaves are on it is impressive, but the white bark in the winter when it has shed its leaves is what makes it visually special.”
Corner lot on Johns Road and Bransford Place
This tree was most likely planted by Berckmans circa 1860. “It is perhaps the largest Japanese Magnolia in Georgia,” says Vaughn. The Japanese Magnolia is a deciduous tree, dropping its leaves in the winter. Flowers bloom on leafless branches in early spring.
Old Government House, 432 Telfair Street
The Ginko in front of the Old Government House is purported to have been a gift from Thomas Jefferson to the Governor of Georgia when the building served as the Georgia State Capitol. Vaughn says that if the story is true, the tree could be 250 years old.
Gingko is not native to North America, but hails from China. Getting a plant that was not native to the region was a big deal back then since nurseries were uncommon and getting a plant that came from China was quite a prize. This particular Ginko is a former Georgia Champion.
405 Telfair Street
This Crepe Myrtle was a replacement for a Georgia State Champion Tree, leading to some controversy. The tree there now was a replacement for the Champion tree, “but the one that took its place shouldn’t qualify because of the way it branches,” says Vaughn. “There is still a plaque in front of the tree signifying that it is a champion. It is still an impressive specimen.”
Other notable Augusta-area trees
Windsor Spring Road
A National Champion
Swamp Chestnut Oak
On the Northwest corner of Milledge and Pickens
The tree was probably planted in the mid-1800s by Bereckmans
Radcliffe Plantation front yard
Near Butler Creek west of US 25 South, behind Poteet’s Funeral Home
Notable for its enormous trunk
This article appears in the January 2017 issue of Augusta Magazine.