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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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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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.
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WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.
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SELF-CARE: Protect your mental health during a hurricane.
IT’S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.