One third of trees in Rotherham town centre have been targeted by vandals, council chiefs have revealed.
Of the 71 trees growing in the town centre, 28 have been damaged - some so badly they have had to be cut down.
Seven are being monitored by council staff in the hope that they can be saved.
Nature lovers are now being urged to be on the lookout for people responsible for the damage.
Over recent months bark has been stripped off trees including ornamental cherries, rowan and crab apples that line Effingham and Frederick Streets and Minster Yard.
Councillor Gerald Smith, Rotherham Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Development Services, said trees in the town centre have been damaged in the past, but the problem has escalated in recent months.
“It is absolutely sickening and has become a real problem,” he said.
“This is not minor damage. This is someone, or some people, systematically stripping the bark from the trunks of these trees, which results in them dying and having to be removed.
“We are now asking that the public keep an eye out and report any suspicious behaviour to the police, who we have alerted to the problem.
“The trees in the town centre make all the difference to the environment and to lose them would be a massive loss.
“They are not cheap to replace either, costing about £2,000 each, which soon mounts up when so many are being affected.”
n Anyone with information about the tree vandals should call Rotherham Streetpride on 01709 336 003. Information can also be passed to South Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.