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Poisoned Auburn oaks hanging on

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But the fate of the trees is still uncertain.

Chicago Tribune | July 5, 2011

The ailing oaks at Toomer's Corner are a mottled mix of yellow and brown these days, but experts say there's still a chance the trees will be in good enough shape for Auburn football fans to roll them with toilet paper after wins this fall.

It's been about five months since school officials confirmed that the famous trees had been poisoned, and fan of archrival Alabama is now awaiting trial in the attack. Emergency procedures that included removing poisoned dirt around the trees' roots have helped them survive this long.

Auburn University horticulturist Gary Keever said no one is sure yet whether the trees will live or die. Fans have celebrated wins under the trees since at least the early 1970s.

"I don't want to give a sense of false hope, but we're not ready to say they're definitely not going to make it," said Keever, part of a team of experts monitoring the health of the trees and trying to save them.

It was in February, not long after Auburn won the national championship, that university officials said someone deliberately poisoned the stately oaks at an entrance to campus. They took soil samples after a man called into a radio show in late January to say he had used herbicide on the trees that flank red-brick pillars topped by stone eagles.

Harvey Updyke Jr., a 62-year-old 'Bama fan with children named Bear and Crimson Tyde, was indicted on charges including criminal mischief and desecration of a venerated object. Updyke pleaded not guilty, and his trial isn't likely to begin before football season.

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