The historic oak trees on Toomer's Corner at Auburn University that were poisoned by a rival and deranged University of Alabama fan cannot be saved and will be cut down in late April, officials announced on Wednesday.
The university said they plan to remove the trees on April 23, weather permitting. Some of the oak trees were reportedly more than 100 years old.
The oak trees were poisoned two years ago during Auburn's 2010 national football championship run. The man charged with poisoning the oak trees, Harvey Updyke Jr., who was 62 years old at the time, has a court appearance scheduled in April.
“The university’s Tree Preservation Committee does not believe the trees will survive despite the extensive work the university and others have done to keep them alive,” said Ron Booth, director of project management in Auburn University Facilities Management.
“The decaying wood is a safety issue, and the only option we have at this point is to remove them," Booth added.
While the trees are slated to be cut down, the roots of the trees are not expected to be removed from the ground until after the 2013 college football season, the War Eagle Reader reported.
"The decision was made to only cut down the trees and not go into the earth, which we talked before about having to be a two week process,” says Debbie Shaw, Vice President of Auburn Alumni Affairs.
“Doing this makes total sense because of the new landscaping (at Toomer’s Corner) which will start after this football season is when they’re going to be making a mess anyway. We’re going to wait to get all of the wood under the ground until then,” Shaw explained.
Updyke reportedly called a local sports radio show and admitted to poisoning the trees with the slow-acting herbicide Spike 80DF the previous November. Until that point, the poisoning had not been detected.
The chemical in Spike 80DF, tebuthiuron, is taken up by the roots and carried to the leaves, blocking photosynthesis, which in turn creates reactive free radicals in the plant cells that attack the cells' chlorophyll and its membrane, causing trees or brush to eventually die.
Spike 80DF is primarily used for clearing range and pasture land of unwanted brush and or trees and to prevent future wildfires.
The university and the city of Auburn will host a block party on April 20 that they have dubbed "Celebrate the Tradition."
The event will feature speakers, live music and a spirit rally. It will also offer Auburn football fans one last chance to drape the Toomer's Corner oaks with toilet paper, a decades-long tradition that accompanied every football game win over rival Alabama.