War Eagle Extra

Auburn replacing both oak trees at Toomer’s Corner

Hundreds of Auburn Tiger fans gathered at Toomer's Corner Saturday to watch as two live oak trees, both about 18 years old and one of them about 23,000 pounds, were planted where the old beloved trees stood before they were poisoned in 2011 by Alabama fan Harvey Upkyke, Jr.
Hundreds of Auburn Tiger fans gathered at Toomer's Corner Saturday to watch as two live oak trees, both about 18 years old and one of them about 23,000 pounds, were planted where the old beloved trees stood before they were poisoned in 2011 by Alabama fan Harvey Upkyke, Jr. rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com

Toomer’s Corner will undergo a major makeover for the second time in as many years.

University officials were monitoring the tree on Magnolia Avenue after Jochen Wiest set it on fire following Auburn’s 18-13 win over LSU.

Wiest, who pled guilty to criminal mischief, significantly damaged the tree, which were installed in 2015.

“The appearance of the tree is unacceptable, and we don’t believe it will recover within a reasonable time period,” Auburn University horticulture professor Gary Keever said in a statement.

Auburn decided to replace the College Street tree as well to match their size and appearance.

“The College Street tree has failed to become established as you can see by dead branches at the top,” Keever said. “If it had not been for the fire, though, we would have pruned those branches and continued nurturing both trees.”

The new trees will have a smaller diameter (11-12 inches) than the ones they are replacing (14 inches). The trees from central Florida will reach between 30-35 inches in height.

“Smaller trees generally work better for transplanting because they are more tolerant of root disturbance and because a smaller percentage of the root system is lost in digging,” Keever said.

Twelve Oaks Landscaping, from Canton, Georgia, will start work at 6 a.m. Saturday morning with the tree on Magnolia street.

The original oak trees were removed in 2011 after it was discovered they were poisoned. The university transplanted new trees in 2015, but the oak tree at Magnolia Avenue didn’t survive and needed to be replaced again a couple months later.

“These trees should work well,” Auburn campus planner Ben Burmester said. “They are smaller than the ones two years ago but are still large enough to look appropriate on the corner. We are committed to having vibrant trees on the corner for the Auburn Family.”

The tradition of rolling Toomer’s Corner returned for the 2016 season — the fire limited fans to the tree on College Street — but is back on hold until the university determines the trees are “fully established.”

“The newly transplanted oaks should not be rolled until it’s deemed they can tolerate it,” Keever said. “We enjoy tradition, but we have to balance tradition with the health of the trees.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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