Press release from Buncombe County:
At approximately 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 23, Buncombe County Recreation Services received an alert from a park user that trees along the river trail at Alexander River Park had been vandalized. Several mature tulip poplar trees had their bark removed near their bases, likely using a mechanical saw. The area of stripped bark is so great, the large trees will likely have to be removed. Removal of mature tree species contributes to flooding and creates severe issues with bank erosion and water quality.
Anyone with information on the person who has committed this crime is encouraged to make an anonymous call to Buncombe County Crime Stoppers at (828) 255-5050.
Yellow poplar or tulip poplar is the tallest hardwood tree in North America, with one of the most perfect and straight trunks. Mature tulip poplar trees grow 80-100 feet tall, and trunks become massive in old age, becoming deeply furrowed with thick bark. In modern times, the bark is harvested for high-end furniture, siding, and artwork.
When a tree has been damaged by removing bark more than one-half its circumference, it will almost certainly kill the tree. The reason for damage due to girdling is that the phloem layer of tissue just below the bark is responsible for carrying food produced in the leaves by photosynthesis to the roots. Without this food, the roots ultimately die and cease sending water and minerals to the leaves.