Ithaca, N.Y. – For Cornell Plantations, having a tree or two come up missing during the holiday season is “the sort of thing that happens regularly.”

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This year’s first theft of a tree — an 18-20 foot tall white spruce — comes as no surprise to Phil Syphrit, a gardener with Cornell Plantations since 2002.

The tree on the far-left, Syphrit said, is “virtually identical” to the tree that was cut down. (Phil Syphrit/Cornell University)

“We know from past history that from around Thanksgiving to Christmas time, from time to time, we have trees stolen,” Syphrit said.

Syphrit discovered that the tree was stolen on Thursday morning. “It makes me mad, sad, and depressed. I’m the one that planted the damn thing; we’re not a Christmas tree farm,” he said.

The tree is estimated by Syphrit to be worth approximately $1,200. “I’m basing that on a few different things,” he explained.

“If I was to say that three staff people — myself, our pest manager, and our records person — if we three only put in five hours of time per year on this tree at our wage, that’s about $1200 worth of the plantation’s wage time for this thing,” he said.

(Phil Syphrit/Cornell University)
(Phil Syphrit/Cornell University)

To prevent something like this from happening again, Syphrit said that they “need to catch someone and make an example of them.”

“…We need to truly punish them, either legally or, if they’re associated with Cornell — if it’s a Cornell student — through whatever university channels we can — academic probation, suspension … that’s something that would get the attention of the student.”

If this is done, he added, “in the future, we could say ‘look, don’t do this.’”

Cornell University Police are currently investigating the theft and ask that anyone with information on the theft contact the department at 607-255-1111.

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A senior at Cornell University, Kyle covers the affordable housing crisis for the Ithaca Voice. Reach him through e-mail: