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Hurricane Ian claims the Dali Museum’s Wish Tree in St. Petersburg

The Florida ficus is toast, but the wish tradition will live on.
Officials look at the uprooted Wish Tree in the Dalí Museum's Avant-garden on Thursday in St. Petersburg. The tree was pushed over by strong winds from Hurricane Ian. Winds have uprooted the ficus tree several times since it was planted in 2011.
Officials look at the uprooted Wish Tree in the Dalí Museum's Avant-garden on Thursday in St. Petersburg. The tree was pushed over by strong winds from Hurricane Ian. Winds have uprooted the ficus tree several times since it was planted in 2011. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sep. 29|Updated Sep. 30

Click here to read this story in Spanish.

ST. PETERSBURG — After nearly 11 years and over 20,000 wishes, the Dalí Museum’s beloved Wish Tree is no more.

The museum has power and both the staff and the artwork are safe, said marketing director Beth Bell.

Related: Friday live updates: Florida recovers as Hurricane Ian targets Carolinas

The Florida ficus, however, was ripped from the Dalí’s Avant-garden before the worst of Hurricane Ian’s winds and rains reached St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

The tree is known for wearing a shaggy rainbow of wristbands, each bearing the handwritten wish of a museum guest. In 2021, 250 were chronicled in a book, “Wishes from The Dalí Museum Wish Tree.”

Related: At St. Petersburg Wish Tree, Dali Museum visitors left dreams. Now they’re in a book.

This marks the fourth and final time the Wish Tree has been uprooted.

The museum had already planned to replace it. The plant has been supported by crutches and anchors since Hurricane Irma tore it out in 2017.

“They worked for 5 years, but this last assessment that we had for the arborist showed that we were shifting a bit,” Bell said.

During an annual inspection in September, an arborist recommended that the museum remove the plant.

“And then mother nature came,” Bell said. “The winds were too tough for it to withstand.”

The Wish Tree in the Avant-garden at The Dali Museum is pictured on Aug. 13, 2021, in St. Petersburg. The Wish Tree was inaugurated almost 10 years ago.
The Wish Tree in the Avant-garden at The Dali Museum is pictured on Aug. 13, 2021, in St. Petersburg. The Wish Tree was inaugurated almost 10 years ago. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]

This is by no means an end to wishes at the Dalí. After removing the current tree, the museum plans to plant a royal poinciana tree in the north side of the garden, which will be more visible and accessible to guests. It should stand a better chance against storms.

“It’s got lighter branches. It’ll offer a little bit more shade. It also blooms annually with these beautiful red flowers,” Bell said.

The wishes will continue to be regularly transcribed and preserved by volunteers.

“We know it’s a beloved tradition in the community and it will live on,” Bell said. “A museum is a perfect place for reflection and inspiration, especially when it’s the Dalí museum, and we want to continue to offer that space.”

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Hurricane coverage

TAMPA BAY CLOSURES: What to know about bridges, roads in Ian’s aftermath

WHEN THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.

POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.

WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?

WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.

SCHOOLS: Will schools reopen quickly after Hurricane Ian passes? It depends.

SELF-CARE: Protect your mental health during a hurricane.

IT’S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

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