One of La Jolla’s most iconic trees has fallen.
The over 100-year-old Monterey Cypress that sat in Ellen Browning Scripps Park and was long believed to be the inspiration behind Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax,” fell over on June 13. Tim Graham, the spokesman for the San Diego Parks and Recreation Department, said that the tree’s old age was likely the cause.
"While it's difficult to determine the exact cause, it is likely that the age of the tree was a major factor,” he said. "The tree, while not dead, was over 100 years old. Monterey Cypress tend to have a range between 40-140 years. Tree failures in older trees are not uncommon.”
While it’s been referred to as the “Lorax Tree” by many La Jollans for decades, it’s not clear if it really inspired Theodor Seuss Geisel to write the 1971 children’s book. According to Dr. Seuss Enterprises, what inspired the “Truffla trees” is still very much a mystery.
"We really have no idea if Ted based the Truffula trees on this particular tree,” said Susan Brandt, president of Dr. Seuss Enterprises. "But regardless we are saddened to hear that this beautiful tree has fallen down, as we are when any tree that has lived for decades falls.”
A representative from UC San Diego — which has a long history with the Geisel family — also said that La Jolla’s “Lorax Tree” was only lore and that neither Theodore or Audrey Geisel designated it as such.
Still, the tree served as an important piece of the community for many of its residents.
“The much loved 'Lorax Tree' in Scripps Park toppled over on Thursday,” said Don Balch, who photographed the tree in its prime as well as when it fell. “It’s a sad loss for La Jollans.”
While age definitely played a role in the tree’s fall, one resident wondered if the increasing popularity of the park did as well.
"The Cove Park used to be a park where nature was left undisturbed by cars, machines, and installation," said Mary Anne Brown. "Today’s economy has transformed the park into a commercial venue turning it into a parking lot for car shows, etc. Driving and heavy traffic on sacred ground with living specimens and sensitive root structure does not bode well for the life of the trees.”
Graham said the sections of the tree that were removed from the park are currently being stored at a City facility. The plan is to find a way to repurpose the iconic tree’s wood, but nothing has been decided.
As for a new tree in its place, Graham said there have been discussions of planting another Monterey Cypress in that area but nothing has been finalized.
For the time being, it seems we’ll only be left to wonder if the tree at Ellen Browning Scripps Park really did inspire Dr. Seuess to write the following:
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”