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Toppled by Irma, Wish Tree at Salvador Dali Museum to be replanted

By Tony Marrero
MONICA HERNDON | Times Toppled by Hurricane Irma's winds, the Wish Tree at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg will be righted and replanted, a museum spokeswoman said Tuesday.

ST. PETERSBURG — The beloved Wish Tree at the Salvador Dalí Museum might live on to accept more dreams.

Apparently toppled by Hurricane Irma's winds, the Florida ficus festooned with colorful admission armbands will be righted and replanted in the coming days, said Kathy Grief, the museum's chief marketing officer.

"It must have just amazing fortitude because it's been taken down with winds in the past and put back up and that is the plan," Greif said. "The tree is intact and seems to be okay."

The tree is a central feature of the museum's "Avant-garden" on the east side facing Tampa Bay. Museum visitors are encouraged to write down a dream on their admission arm bands, which vary in color depending on the day of the week, and tie them to the tree. A small sign beside the trunk says the Wish Tree has roots in Hindu and Scottish traditions.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Dreams mingle in the breeze on Dali Museum's Wish Tree

Social media users reacted with dismay on Monday to photos showing the tree lying at a roughly 45-degree angle, its massive root ball jutting into the air.

Greif said the winds were strong enough to snap steel cables holding down the tree. An arborist was at the museum Tuesday working to make sure it had enough water before a crew comes with a crane to put it back into place. That will likely happen sometime this week.

The tree was a transplant, rescued after being uprooted in a 2010 storm in South Florida. It has been blown down and been righted four times since then, Greif said.

Visitors can place their armbands on the tree itself or to strands hung from the tree for the purpose. Those strands are taken down each week, the wishes recorded for posterity. A selection of them are read at the museum's annual Veterans Day ceremony.

In preparation for the storm, museum employees removed the strands that were hanging on the tree so they would not be lost.

The Wish Tree wasn't the only casualty in the Avant-garden. An olive tree also toppled over but will likely be replanted. Some tall cypress trees that fell might not be salvageable.

Other items outdoor, including a new metal mustache sculpture honoring Dalí's trademark curled facial hair, were unharmed, Greif said.

If you were worried about the famous surrealist's art, don't. The museum was built like a vault, able to withstand Category 5 winds. Workers cover skylights and close the gallery's heavy steel doors before storms come. The Enigma, the museum's signature geodesic glass bubble, is built to withstand Category 3 winds.

Temporarily closed while Irma passed through, the museum will reopen Wednesday, Greif said.

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.