Tree Goddess: Killing 130-year-old Oaks is More than Mischief

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

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 mstadther@turtlebay.org.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Avatar
'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 mstadther@turtlebay.org.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

6 Responses

  1. Avatar dianehepburn says:

    This is a very sad story. I hope Harvey will be punished to the full extent of the law.

    And that will not be enough. How many developers of housing tracts have done the same thing by "clearing the land" before they build, and there is no penalty. The Saratoga and Sunset Terrace neighborhoods are lovely because this was not done.

  2. Avatar naomikemp says:

    I've seen the trees in person and although i'm not a football fan, those trees were so much more. they were historic landmarks in the city and they will be missed. Even more than that, they were gorgeous trees and should have been preserved regardless of status.

  3. Avatar Barbara Stone says:

    Wow, how petty is that! Why can't people not only respect trees but also juvenile rituals? I just don't get how tp-ing a tree would make someone want to destroy it! He must be insane.

  4. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Thank you for this article. What a tragedy.

    My husband and I had a Sabine (gray) pine cut down that was leaning over our home. The tree, which in this area could have been 40 years old, turned out to be 150 years old. We were both stricken, but also glad that we weren't worrying about that huge tree crushing us in our sleep. Trees are magnificent.

  5. Avatar Shayne Hale says:

    Interestingly enough the school has created a website for updating all parties concerned, the website is http://ocm.auburn.edu/news/oaks.html.

    There also a video on http://www.aolnews.com/2011/02/17/whats-spike-80d

    Here's a link to Harvey's mugshot http://www.aolnews.com/2011/02/17/harvey-almorn-u

    Another article states this may stem from a long standing Auburn-Alabama grudge
    http://www.aolnews.com/2011/02/17/auburn-tree-poi

  6. If some one desires to be updated with newest technologies

    then he must be pay a visit this site and be up to date everyday.