The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Famous Auburn trees dying at the hands of crazed Alabama fan

If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

In the case of the two poisoned oak trees at Auburn University, the trees are dying, and fans are definitely hearing the sound.
In Feb. 2011, Auburn discovered that the famous 130-year-old Toomer Corner oaks had been poisoned with a powerful herbicide, Spike 80DF.
This “tree slaughter” was at the hands of Harvey Updyke, a 64-year-old crazed Alabama football fan and former Texas state trooper, who deliberately poured lethal amounts of herbicide into the soil of the trees.

Updyke was arrested over two years ago after a man calling himself “Al from Dadeville” phoned a radio show claiming responsibility for the deed and signing off with, “Roll D— Tide.”

Recently sentenced to three years in prison, Updyke pleaded guilty to criminal damage of an agricultural facility. The sentence requires a minimum of six months of jail time and five years on supervised probation.
The contaminated trees, on the other hand, received the death penalty.

“Herbicides work by different mechanisms,” said Binford Professor of Biology Frank Keegan. “Mostly they inhibit cellular metabolisms, so they prevent the tree from generating energy. The herbicide (Updyke) spread was one of these systemic herbicides … one of these that are really harmful … those trees are going to die. It’s a shame.”

Junior Trey Atkinson, whose parents attended Auburn, is a big fan of the Crimson Tide and has noticed change in the rivalry since the incident.
“Those are probably the biggest landmarks and icons of Auburn University,” said Atkinson. “Everyone would leave the stadium and go straight (to trees) and the band played … now, everyone just kind of disperses.

“There’s no big central celebration anymore. That was literally one of their biggest traditions. And now because of one angry fan, it’s ruined.”
Even Alabama fans disagree with Updyke’s behavior.

“When you’re born in Alabama you either bleed Crimson or Orange … it’s a rivalry starting from birth,” said sophomore and Alabama fan Juquan Tellis. “‘Bama and Auburn fans hate each other’s guts. As a result, things like poisoning trees happen. I don’t really support what he did, however, this is just one of the thousands of things that happen either to Auburn or Alabama.”

Certified arborist Alex Brown worked with tree law for the Non Profit Friends of the Urban Forest in San Francisco, Calif., and thinks this incident should be taken seriously.
“The death of a tree, especially the murder, is a strange, malicious act that makes one wonder what other measures that man will go to,” said Brown in an email interview. “How angry can this guy be?”
Director of Environmental Sustainability David Petree describes the act as a “sad case of emotional immaturity.”
“We damage nature every day in numerous ways,” said Petree. “It’s sad to see this kind of mean-spirited behavior resulting from the rivalry of a sporting event.”
While heated rivalries like this can add fun competition to sports, incidents that go too far such as this one may lead to unnecessary damage.
“If you find yourself in the middle of the night lugging around a massive dose of herbicide and looking out for cops, you probably need to rethink your decision-making process,” said Associate Professor of Geology Dave Dobson in an email interview.
“Likewise, if you are sad because the tree you used to cover with toilet paper when your football team wins has been poisoned by a rabid Alabamian, you might also want to take that opportunity to reflect on your priorities.”

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Guilfordian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • M

    MikeApr 6, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    I’m not a fan of either school(Florida State alum here), but to the tool quoted saying that people who are saddened by the poisoning of the trees might want to reflect on their priorities, you might just need to keep your opinions to yourself if you’re that clueless about what this means to Auburn fans. What’s important to you might not be to others, and vice versa. There’s nothing wrong with college football fans being passionate about a campus landmark, and then being rather upset over its destruction. If a Florida fan burned the Sod Cemetery and ripped down the statue of Osceola, I’d be understandably pissed; I wouldn’t need to “reflect on my priorities,” you snarky prick.