When Scott McElroy heard the news, he feared the worst.
“Auburn took this very seriously from the very beginning,” said McElroy, a professor in the Auburn College of Agriculture’s Department of Turf Management. “This was not a joke to anybody by any stretch of the imagination.”
On January 27, an Alabama fan calling himself “Al from Dadeville” called The Paul Finebaum Show and claimed that he had poisoned the 130 year old oak trees at Toomer’s Corner. The next morning, while a team from Auburn’s Landscape Services took soil samples, McElroy walked to Toomer’s from his office at Funchess Hall to conduct his own test using a photosynthesis meter than can detect herbicide treatment in a plant’s leaves.
“With any diagnostic procedure, whether you’re going in to detect cancer or poison in a tree, you do a quick screen first, and then you do more extensive testing,” McElroy said.
The results of McElroy’s quick screen came back negative. The results — for a variety of reasons — were wrong.
Auburn University today confirmed that the iconic oaks were, in fact, poisoned with a high dose of Spike 80DF, a herbicide governed by state agricultural laws and the Environmental Protection Agency.
A press release issued by the university said the trees have “little chance for survival.”
“[The poison present in the trees] was well above the amount you would need to kill a tree,” McElroy said. “It was an excessive amount.”
The trees are currently being treated with activated carbon to prevent uptake of the herbicide into the trees’ roots.
McElroy was not at liberty to discuss some issues of the university’s investigation into the incident, but said that the poison was likely applied by a person with a working knowledge of herbicides.
“In the call, the guy said he used Spike 80DF. I didn’t hear that initially,” McElroy said. “He added the ’80DF’ part. That’s part of the formulation. That’s part of the chemistry of how that product was formulated. When you say ’80DF’, that means there’s 80 percent of active chemical in the formulated product.”
McElroy said that Spike, or tebuthiuron, is not readily available and is typically ordered from farmer’s cooperatives.
“It’s an expensive herbicide. It’s not cheap to go buy,” he said. “They don’t sell a lot of this. It’s not like you to Lowes of Home Depot to pick up. There’s not a lot of people who buy it… it’s an herbicide normally used by people who manage pasture fence rows and non-crop areas.”
McElroy said the variables of the trees’ less-than-ideal root environment might actually offer them a glimmer of hope by limiting the poison’s effect.
“It’s such an artificial system that the trees are growing in,” he said. “Think about how compacted that soil is and how restricted those roots are there… everything points to those trees not surviving, but we’re just in a wait and see mode.”
McElroy said that unless the situation changes, the trees should start showing serious signs of decay — browning and falling leaves — over the next month, but could take up to a year to die.
“Best case scenario the trees will be disfigured to the point they have to be removed,” McElroy later posted on his blog.
UPDATE: Watch our interview with “The Emotional Agronomist,” Stephen Enloe.
* Bama police keep vigil over Bear Bryant statue
* Barrett Trotter knows when to hold’em
* Bear Bryant’s lost year at Auburn
* Classic punxploitation flick features broadcast of Auburn game
* Auburn students stand in for Joaquin Phoenix, stars of Space Camp (1985)
* The G.I. Joe from Auburn
* Videographer behind AU hype videos wasn’t initially sold on “All I Do is Win”
* Two campy degrees of separation between Auburn and Swamp Thing
* I Survived the Kopper Kettle Explosion and all I got was this t-shirt
* Auburn coed is internet icon
* Auburn grad tries to get Ryan Secrest to hire her with internet campaign
Very sad. The Auburn Spirit will live on.
Is anybody really surprised at who did it? This has got to be an all time low, for any fanbase, ever. At least now the rest of the country gets to see the kind of scum we have to put up with in this state.
Harvey A Updyke
Date of Birth:
Most Recent Address:
259 Silver Hill Rd, Dadeville, AL 36853-4656
I’ve thought long and hard about how to properly answer this man’s actions. I was never one for eye for an eye, seeing it as futile and inadequate. It leaves both sides half blind.
No, better that he be reminded of his action time and again, until he leaves this world. I suggest that the students of Auburn, fans, friends and family all sing him the Auburn fight song at every opportunity: At his arraignment, at his trial, during his incarceration, at his parole hearing, during his community service, and at every opportunity as long as he lives. Sing to him in the store, at the gas station, after church, make it his daily message from the Auburn family. Ever to conquer, never to yield. Let him hear it from us and ours forever, so that it replays in his dreams.
L Grossman says
I pray that this idiocy ends here and does not escalate. The university should also start a toomers fund to replace and care for the trees & add web cams. We need to move this act into the background and not dwell on this type of senseless hatred from one moron.
I say we all roll his yard……see address above.
Never to Yield!
Fearless and True!
I partly blame the city of Auburn. No one ever rolled the trees at all until they took the powerlines down.
I am fine with the powerlines being down. Downtown looks nicer.The city need to string up some temporary cables across the intersection to roll on game day. The wear on the trees from the TP was not doing the trees any favors even before the poisoning.
Why people take sports so personal to go to this extent is ridiculous. It’s repulsive that a grown 62 yo man enraged by something that has no personal impact on his life or family would destroy a historical monument. This was a shameful unnecessary act and I personally think that people like Harvey should not only be locked up but have a psychological examination performed to determine whether he is a danger to the public. Sports are Family FUN Traditions. I am sad to know that my kids will not get to enjoy the War Eagle tradition of rolling Toomers Corner. Maybe artificial oak tree monuments of those trees can be placed in those spots not only to continue our traditional “roll the trees in celebration of our success” but in memory of those oaks that represent generations of families, fans, and our BCS National Championship WIN of 2011!!!
I love the sheer hypocrisy flowing out of the classy, incestuous Aubarn, AL family’s mouths…
You guys brought this on yourselves with your “BIG BRUDDER LOOK AT ME” attitude by vandalizing UA’s statues and The Walk of Champions. I understand what Updick did was ten times worse, but you guys have no one to blame but yourselves. Do you think, for once, you can vandalize a rival university, not once, not twice, but three times and their would be no repercussion for it?
You laugh when it happens to UA, yet cry and curse when it happens to you guys. An old maxim says, “You slap my dog, I’m going to slay your cat” and this is simply a case of that.
This is what constant Alabama obsession and envy gets you… You guys buy your first national championship in over 50 years, and instead of celebrating, you literally stick it to an entirely different university (whom you didn’t even play in the championship game) and actually have the AUdacity to celebrate that, instead of scolding the fan who did it. Talk about beautifying a university, perhaps the next guy can burn down all of Aubarn’s barns, trailer parks, and rodeo stages, because God knows there’s not much else to destroy in that Mayberry-esque, backwoods town.
Enjoy vacating that national title and losing a tree in the process!
Dr Beth AU says
Alabama obsession and envy? Really? Why are you at this site LITTLE BRUDDER? Auburn people have better things to do…Little Brudder troll boy. 28-27!
Thanks for representing the worst of the Bama fanbase. For a moment there I thought there might be a glimmer of hope that even the sidewalk alumni might have seen reason.
“………says” doesn’t represent his university very well. He just adds insult to the black eye his university already has.
ANY ALABAMA FANS ON HERE CAN KISS MY FUCKING ASS……….YOUR ALL PIECES OF SHIT! ESPECIALLY INCLUDING HARVEY “GAY AL” UPDICK….. HES A PIECE OF SHIT WHO IS PROBABLY A FUCKING DRUNK AND A BUM, ANYONE WHO CONDONES THIS SHIT IN ANY WAY IS OUT OF THEIR MIND AND DESERVES TO HAVE THEIR ASS BEAT IN THE STREET BUT YOUR PROBABLY TOO MUCH OF A PUSSY TO MEET ME ON THE STREET, AND TO THAT FAGGOT BAMA FAN WHO TALKS ABOUT AU FANS DOING THOSE THINGS TO THE BAMA STATUES YOU ARE FUCKING STUPID, WE DID NOT DAMAGE ANYTHING, ONLY MARKED ON THEM AND PUT A JERSEY ON THEM, THATS IT, WE DID NOT DAMAGE ANYTHING, THEY CAN BE CLEANED AND YOU CAN TAKE A JERSEY OFF A STATUE R U KIDDING ME??????? DONT BE A HATER, LET IT GO AUBURN WON AND BAMA CHOKED!!!
AND IF I SEE ANY FUCKING BAMA FLAGS SIGNS OR ANYTHING SHOWING ROLLTIDE ON IT IM GOING TO ROLL THAT MOTHERFUCKER OR FUCKING PISS ON IT I DONT GIVE A SHIT!!!!!!! fuck bama and fuck BEAR BRYANT HE WAS A PUSSY!