Tree Believed to Have Inspired Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax Has Died

RIP, Lorax Tree.
Photo: San Diego Parks and Recreation

Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) once wrote his popular children’s books atop Mount Soledad in San Diego, California. From there, he could see a single Monterey Cypress tree that sat within Ellen Browning Scripps Park in La Jolla, California. That tree is thought to have helped inspire The Lorax.

Now, that tree is dead. The fallen tree, the last of its kind in this park, was mostly removed Friday, reports the local ABC station. The city plans to memorialize the trunk and will plant another one in its place.

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The Lorax is a heartbreaking tale of environmental disaster where greed ultimately wins. The protagonist is the Lorax, attempting to protect the magnificent Truffula trees from the Once-ler who wants to cut them down for profit. The Lorax, unfortunately, fails in the book—and the real world has seemingly come to mirror that tragic tale of fiction.

The now-deceased Monterey Cypress tree was about 80 to 100 years old. These trees can live up to 150 years, according to the Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute at Cal Poly, and CNN reports that the City of San Diego is still unsure why it fell. Earther has reached out to the San Diego Parks and Recreation Department for more information and we’ll update this post when we hear back.

While all that remained of the last tree at the end of The Lorax was a single seed, there are fortunately still plenty of Monterey Cypress trees in the real world. Native to California’s Monterey Peninsula, they can now be found throughout the state. The species, however, is considered “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as it faces threats from wildfires. The trees’ seedlings are also really sensitive to livestock, per the Forest Service.

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The death of this famous tree feels quite fitting given the state of the world: The Amazon rainforest is seeing a spike in deforestation as Brazil’s new far-right president makes it easier for industry to move in. The Congo’s ancient rainforests may not make it through our lifetime. A new report says we can no longer plant enough trees to offset our carbon emissions. Hell, even the monkey that some scientists argue inspired the creation of the Lorax is losing its trees in Kenya.

I’m sure the Lorax’s heart would break at our grave reality. Dr. Seuss put it best: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

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About the author

Yessenia Funes

I mostly write about how environmental policy and climate change intersect with race and class though I occasionally write about animals, science, and art, too. We all need an escape, right?

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