Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr. was arrested Thursday morning and charged with one count of criminal mischief in connection with poisoning two trees at Toomer's Corner, the traditional gathering area for celebrations at Auburn University.
Allegedly, Updyke deliberately poisoned two of the oak trees at Toomer's Corner with a powerful herbicide tebuthiuron (also referred to as Spike 80DF) and officials are unsure whether the trees can be saved.
Auburn officials were alerted to the poisoning after a man calling himself Al from Dadeville called into a sports radio talk show and claimed to have poisoned the trees after last year's Iron Bowl game between Auburn and the University of Alabama. The caller ended his segment on the radio by saying Roll Damn Tide, leading many to believe this was the work of Alabama supporters.
After taking soil samples, Auburn officials confirmed that the trees had been poisoned and said they do not use that particular herbicide for university landscaping purposes.
City police are investigating the incident, but the use of Spike 80DF also falls under the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Gary Keever, a horticulture professor at Auburn who is also a part of the school's Tree Preservation Committee is less than optimistic about the trees's chances for survival. He said that the amount of herbicide found in the soil was a lethal dose and that it would remain in the soil for three to five years.
We are assessing the extent of the damage and proceeding as if we have a chance to save the trees, Keever said. We are also focused on protecting the other trees and shrubs in Samford Park. 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.