Toomer's Corner trees continue decline

Toomer's Corner on Sept. 23 (Source: Auburn University)
Toomer's Corner on Sept. 23 (Source: Auburn University)

AUBURN, AL (WSFA) - Auburn University says the century-old oak trees marking the entrance to campus, known as the Toomer's Corner Oaks, have continued to steadily decline in health over the summer and into the fall.

Showing signs of their poisoning by a powerful herbicide known as Spike 80DF, the two oaks - and a number of other plants in close proximity to them - are showing signs of decline.

The oaks have entire branches that appear to be dead, and the rest are sparsely covered with green and yellowish-brown leaves. In comparison, an oak tree a little over a block away in front of Funchess Hall is weighted-down with deep-green leaves, the brown coloring of it's branches barely visible.

SLIDESHOW: [Toomer's Corner Trees in September]

Both Toomer's oaks continue their efforts to produce new foliage, but Spike 80DF works by blocking photosynthesis in the leaves, which quickly turn brown and die. The trees attempt to launch new shoots over and over but produce fewer leaves after each time as they burn through food and energy reserves.

Officials say the trees only have about 20 to 30 percent of the foliage in their canopy  compared to in years past. A long-term prognosis is expected by spring.

Barricades continue to block passersby from walking on the soil directly under the trees, but  Auburn has allowed fans the ability to continue the tradition of rolling the trees with toilet paper through the first two home football games of 2011.

The paper is cleaned from the branches by hand, not with high-pressure water hoses as used to be the case. Specialists say there is no evidence to suggest the trees are being harmed by the rolling.

The man accused of poisoning the iconic trees on Auburn's campus, Harvey Updyke, took credit for the poisoning of the trees during a call-in segment of a radio sports show earlier in the year saying it was in retaliation for how Auburn fans have treated Alabama fans in the past.

Updyke is charged with numerous crimes including Criminal Mischief. His trial is scheduled for October 31 in Lee County


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