North Carolina

A vandal stripped bark off trees near NC river, officials say. Why is that dangerous?

Tulip poplar trees were damaged in an act of vandalism, a North Carolina county says.
Tulip poplar trees were damaged in an act of vandalism, a North Carolina county says. Buncombe County

A group of trees that can tower 100 feet above the North Carolina landscape may not survive after a vandal removed part of their trunks, officials say.

The damaged trees at Alexander River Park “will likely have to be removed” and their absence could cause flooding, erosion and water-quality issues, the Buncombe County government announced Thursday on Facebook.

“It’s going to take quite a number of years to get the root system at a level of protection that the tree currently provides,” Josh O’Conner, recreation services director for the county, told WLOS.

Also, trees will likely die after bark is taken from more than half their trunks, according to the post from the county, which is home to the city of Asheville.

Officials say they learned about the damage on Tuesday and found “several mature tulip [poplar] trees had their bark removed near their bases, likely using a mechanical saw.”

Photos show rectangle-shaped chunks missing from the trees, exposing a layer underneath the bark.

Tulip poplar trees have hardy bark, which is “harvested for high-end furniture, siding, and artwork,” the county says.

The plants can grow more than 100 feet and boast yellow, orange and green blooms in the spring, the North Carolina Native Plant Society says. The trees are “important for wildlife,” according to the group.

In Buncombe County, O’Conner says paying someone to haul away the damaged trees will cost about $1,000, according to WLOS.

Officials are looking for the person who is responsible for the damage and may offer a reward for tips, according to the county.