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Suspected tree vandalism

VANDALISM?: Crosby Arboreum Director Pat Drackett looks at a tree she suspects was the victim of vandalism. The tree, which is suffering from a number of ailments, but was home to a large shelf fungi, which was removed along with a large piece of bark seen here. Photo by Jeremy Pittari

VANDALISM?: Crosby Arboreum Director Pat Drackett looks at a tree she suspects was the victim of vandalism. The tree, which is suffering from a number of ailments, but was home to a large shelf fungi, which was removed along with a large piece of bark seen here.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari

A loblolly pine tree at the local arboretum that survived Hurricanes Camille and Katrina has suffered another blow to its already declining health, a large section of the bark has been stripped away, possibly during an act of vandalism.
While Crosby Arboretum Director Pat Drackett said she can’t prove the act was perpetrated by a human, she finds it odd that the bark was stripped away recently and focused on a section that had a large shelf fungus growing on it. Drackett said she discovered the missing bark and fungus on Monday, but could not say when it was taken.
“It boggles my mind,” Drackett said. “If it was someone who came here previously to visit, they would have respect for nature.”
Drackett suspects it wasn’t just the large section of bark that was of interest, but also the large shelf fungus that was attached to the bark.
Drackett said the fungus and the bark don’t have monetary value, so there was no need to call law enforcement and file a report, but she is interested in obtaining any information the community may have concerning the suspected vandalism.
The reason they don’t suspect an animal stripped the bark is because there are no remnants of the bark or fungus at the foot of the tree.
The tree’s health has been declining for some time. It suffers from an infestation of beetles, has a large section of rot occurring on one side, which is what the fungus was growing upon, and has a number of woodpecker holes in it. But, it still perseveres, for now at least. Drackett fears that this recent blow may cause it to die faster.
In fact, the tree looked so damaged before the recent incident that kids had taken to giving it hugs as they pass.
“It looks like it needs a hug,” Drackett said.
While the act, if it was vandalism, did not result in monetary damage, the now visible hole evokes a negative feeling every time Drackett sees it.
“It’s the same feeling when your house has been burgled,” Drackett said. “Like someone has violated your personal space.”

The tree and its many ailments act as a teaching tool for visitors, showing how trees provide places for various fungi to grow on the roots and bark. In addition to the shelf fungus that was growing on the tree, the roots are home to a cauliflower fungus. The fact that this tree is in such a decline, but still alive, makes it a perfect example to demonstrate the resilience of trees, Drackett said.
While the staff at the arboretum is looking into ways to patch the hole, Drackett does not foresee a positive outcome.
“It’s a scar that will never heal on that tree,” she said.