For years, students of Alabama’s Auburn University have celebrated athletic achievements by gathering at a place called Toomer’s Corner and toilet-papering the two live oaks that have flourished there for more than 130 years.
Tragically, in early December 2010, a 62-year-old man named Harvey A. Updyke Jr. allegedly poisoned these trees by saturating the surrounding soil with a more-than-lethal dose of an herbicide commonly used to kill trees and shrubs, Auburn police said. This herbicide, known as Spike 80DF, was detected in the soil in amounts ranging from .78 parts per million (described as a very lethal dose) to up to 51 parts per million.
Although all efforts are being done to save the trees, experts have stated it’s a lost cause. Since Spike 80DF moves through the soil to a wide area, precautions are being taken to protect the surrounding trees and shrubs.
Nobody will know the extent of the damage done for quite some time.
Apparently, the weekend after the area’s final football game of the season (the Nov. 26 Iron Bowl), Updyke applied the herbicide around the live oak trees with the intention of killing them, police said. Then, on January 27 (almost a month later), Updyke reportedly contacted a local Alabama radio station and bragged about it! In mid-February, the Auburn police had Harvey in custody on a $50,000 bond and facing a felony first-degree mischief charge.
Marie Stadther’s life in Coachella Valley was void of trees. In 2001, she packed up and headed north. After a drive through the majestic redwoods, she arrived in Redding, where she immersed herself in horticulture as owner of her own landscaping company and as assistant to an arborist. She is now the lead gardener for Turtle Bay’s McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Her love of trees is a way of life, and she shares that passion with the community. Send the Tree Goddess your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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