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Monterey Cypress tree thought to have inspired the Dr. Seuss classic 'The Lorax' falls over

The Monterey Cypress tree in La Jolla, California, that served as inspiration for the Truffula trees in the Dr. Seuss story fell over on June 13. Parks officials don't know why.
/ Source: TODAY

The tree that helped inspire the classic Dr. Seuss children's book "The Lorax" has fallen.

The Monterey Cypress tree that late author Theodor Seuss Geisel could see from the window of his long-time mountaintop home fell to the ground at Ellen Browning Scripps Park in La Jolla, California, on June 13 from unknown causes, San Diego Parks and Recreation spokesman Tim Graham told TODAY.

Geisel lived in La Jolla from 1948 until his death at 87 in 1991, and he used the tree as inspiration for the Truffula trees in "The Lorax,'' according to La Jolla's official website.

The real-life tree was estimated to be between 80 and 100 years old, Graham said. Cypress trees are unique to the California coast.

"We did want to make it clear that the tree was not dead when it fell,'' Graham said. "It did have some termites, but was generally in good condition."

The precious Truffula trees in "The Lorax" were inspired by the Monterey Cypress in La Jolla.
The precious Truffula trees in "The Lorax" were inspired by the Monterey Cypress in La Jolla. Random House

The majority of the tree was removed on June 14 with the rest expected to be removed this week, according to Graham. The city is looking into planting a new tree in its place and hopes to repurpose the trunk of the fallen tree.

"We really have no idea if Ted based the truffula trees on this particular tree, 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," Susan Brandt, president of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, said in a statement to TODAY. "That said, we are happy to hear that the park district has plans to plant a new tree and hope that this new tree has the opportunity to grow and delight park goers for years and years."

"The Lorax" is an environmentally-conscious story that reflected the beliefs of Geisel, who was upset about construction that threatened the natural beauty of La Jolla.

It tells the tale of the ambitious Once-ler building his business at the expense of the Truffula trees before the title character confronts him and "speaks for the trees" to help save them.

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not,'' one famous line of the story reads.

The book also became an animated film in 2012 starring Danny DeVito as the Lorax and Ed Helms as the Once-ler.