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San Diego-area tree thought by some to be inspiration for 'The Lorax' falls in park

John Wilkens, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

SAN DIEGO -- It's a scene right out of "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss: All that's left is the trunk.

A century-old Monterey Cypress tree in La Jolla's Ellen Browning Scripps Park -- thought by many locals to be the inspiration for the foliage in Seuss' 1971 story about ecological devastation -- fell down last Thursday. City officials are investigating the cause.

"The tree was not dead at the time it fell, and with the exception of some stressing due to termites, was generally in good shape," said Tim Graham, a spokesman for the city of San Diego's parks and recreation department. Portions of the tree were removed last week, and crews were expected to begin taking out the trunk Tuesday, he said.

Officials hope to salvage some of the wood and repurpose it. Staff is also planning to plant a replacement tree in the park, Graham said.

Word of the tree's demise rocketed around the Internet over the weekend and on Monday because of the cypress' reported ties to "The Lorax," a connection that may be more community lore than fact. Others have cited trees in Africa as the inspiration.

The author, Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel, lived on Mount Soledad in La Jolla and worked in an office with a sweeping view of the coastline. He wrote "The Lorax" when he was 67 and well on his way to being the most successful American children's book author in history. He died in 1991.


He told several interviewers over the years that "Lorax" was inspired by the anger he felt as he watched homes and condominiums being carved into the hillsides below him. He called the book "one of the few things I ever set out to do that was straight propaganda."

But he had trouble turning that outrage into a story. In 1970, he and his wife, Audrey, went on a safari to Kenya. One day, sitting by a swimming pool, he saw a herd of elephants walking across a hill.

"Why that released me, I don't know," he would later say, "but all of a sudden, all my notes assembled mentally."

He spent the next 90 minutes filling the pages of a small notebook. He had his story. And as the years passed, the author would often claim "The Lorax" was his favorite among the 48 books that he wrote.


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