The famous Auburn University oak trees at Toomer's Corner underwent extensive pruning Aug. 8 to remove dead and dying limbs. The university has been struggling to save the trees since they were poisoned in 2010 by a University of Alabama football fan.
Harvey Updyke, who has publicly admitted to the tree poisonings but pleaded not guilty due to mental disease or defect, awaits trial for his crime on charges of first-degree criminal mischief, desecration of a venerated object and unlawful damage of a crop facility. Updyke's trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 1.
The Toomer's Corner trees in their heyday, before the poisoning. (Photo: George Thomas/Flickr)
The Toomer's Corner trees are part of a long-standing tradition at Auburn University. Students, alumni and fans celebrate under the oaks, draping them with toilet paper after football games between Auburn and the University of Alabama. The rivalry has gotten more heated in recent years, with some Alabama fans lighting the toilet paper on fire. The rivalry reached its peak in 2010 when Updyke allegedly poisoned the trees with an herbicide known as Spike 80DF.
Last week's tree trimming came at the advice of the Auburn University Tree Preservation Committee, which also said on Wednesday that the trees are still strong enough for the traditional toilet-paper celebrations. "While long-term decisions about the trees have not been made, fans are still welcome to gather at the corner this fall and continue the tradition of rolling the trees with toilet paper," the committee said in a statement. The first football game of the season is scheduled for Sept. 22, when Auburn will face off against Louisiana State University. The first Auburn-Alabama game of the year will be held on Nov. 24.
The university continues to do all that it can to save the trees from the slow-acting but powerful poison. The soil around the trees was replaced, other damaged limbs have been trimmed and, most recently, the trees have received a series of sugar injections to promote new growth. It is still too early to know if the trees will survive.
The Opelika-Auburn News posted this video of last week's trimming: