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Auburn trees poisoned, possibly by fanatical Alabama supporter

February 17, 2011 | 11:53 am

Toomer_400 As they have for generations, Auburn University fans decorated the two giant oak trees at Toomer's Corner with toilet paper Wednesday night -- only this time it was not to celebrate a Tigers victory. Instead, it was to pay tribute after the news came out that the two beloved trees have been poisoned.

A 62-year-old man, apparently a fanatical supporter of archrival Alabama, was arrested Thursday morning in connection with the poisoning of the historic trees at the traditional site of Auburn celebrations.

Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr. was charged with one count of first-degree criminal mischief, Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said. Bond was set at $50,000, and Updyke faces one to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Updyke is thought to be a man who called himself "Al from Dadeville" while calling a radio show last month. That caller claimed he poured herbicide around the 130-year-old oaks.

Dawson would not confirm that Updyke was the person who called the radio show.

Pompoms and signs -- including one that said, "Get well soon" --  have been laid at the base of the trees. And of course there are the traditional rolls of toilet paper hanging from the branches.

Stephen Enloe, an assistant professor of agronomy and soil, said there was a "low probability" the trees would survive after being poisoned by Spike 80DF, which is used to kill trees.

Gary Keever, a horticulture professor, said excavating and replacing the soil might help. He said workers started treating the soil Thursday and are trying to come up with other solutions.

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Toni Rich holds her son Gabriel, 5, as students and supporters gather to pay tribute to live oaks at Toomer's Corner on the campus of Auburn University on Wednesday. Credit: David Bundy / Associated Press

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