After the oaks surrounding Toomer’s Corner were deliberately dosed with an herbicide designed to kill trees, it is doubtful that they will survive, Auburn University reported Wednesday.
Toomer’s Corner is most notably known as the epicenter of celebration after AU victories, and during these celebrations, fans line the trees — which are believed to be more than 130 years old — with toilet paper.
The city of Auburn Police Division is investigating the situation, and the application of this herbicide, known as Spike 80DF, or tebuthiuron, is also governed by state agricultural laws and the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a release on Auburn University’s website.
In January, a man called The Paul Finebaum Show, a nationally syndicated radio show based in Birmingham, and said he had dosed the trees with the herbicide. The caller expressed anger at a Cam Newton jersey appearing on Paul “Bear” Bryant’s statue during Iron Bowl weekend last year.
“Let me tell you what I did,” the caller said. “The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn, Alabama and I poisoned the two Toomer’s trees…they’re not dead yet but they definitely will die…roll damn tide.”
Following the claim, the soil surrounding the trees was tested for the poison, yielding positive results.
Gary Keever, an Auburn professor of horticulture who is also a member of the Auburn Tree Preservation Committee, said the extent of the damage is being assessed.
“We are also focused on protecting the other trees and shrubs in Samford Park,” Keever said. “At this level, the impact could be much greater than just the oaks on the corner, as Spike moves through the soil to a wide area.”
Rectifying the situation involves digging trenches and absorbing the herbicide using activated charcoal, which also serves to block its progress, according to al.com.
“We will take every step we can to save the Toomer’s oaks, which have been the home of countless celebrations and a symbol of the Auburn spirit for generations of Auburn students, fans, alumni and the community,” AU President Jay Gogue said. “It is understandable to feel outrage in reaction to a malicious act of vandalism. However, we should live up to the example we set in becoming national champions and the beliefs expressed in our Auburn Creed. Individuals act alone, not on behalf of anyone or any place, and all universities are vulnerable to and condemn such reprehensible acts.”
Those with information regarding the attack can anonymously contact the Auburn Police Division at 334-501-3110 or text the tip line at 334-246-1391.