hug me tree

Toronto's famous Hug Me Tree is suddenly gone

If you've meandered along downtown Toronto's Queen Street West near Spadina Ave. even once in your life, you couldn't have missed the Hug Me Tree, a tenured tourist attaction that people seem to love to reach out and touch, pose with for photos, and, well, hug.

The resident tree has been a local landmark and smile maker at the corner of Queen and Soho for more than 20 years, eye-catchingly random and alluring with its colourfully decorated trunk.

After sadly falling over in 2008, the timber was saved by residents before it the City was able to turn it into wood chips, and was later restored back to its proper place, fortified with a new metal plate base to keep it steady and enduring for years to come.

Sadly, as of late last week, those years have been cut short.

Passersby familiar with the fixture have noticed the Hug Me Tree's obvious absence in recent days, with nothing but a tiny, torn-up stump remaining in its place in front of the MEC store on the north side of Queen.

Four large orange pylons now stand around the empty metal plate, ostensibly placed by the city to note the hazard.

But what, exactly, happened?

According to 311, an incident report was filed last Friday, Aug. 7, which was the day after the city experienced a savage and windy thunderstorm, which persisted on through the weekend.

A spokesperson from the City purports that the tree was either damaged or fell down completely and blocked the sidewalk, necessitating its removal.

They were not able to disclose further details of the wind storm cleanup report, nor what the fate of the legendary trunk will be.

But, they did state that given Urban Forest Management's obligation to increase canopy cover across the city, the tree will at some point be replaced — though the new one will be nowhere near as large, distinctive, storied or beloved.

The loss of the noteworthy beacon and its positive light definitely stings, especially given the lengths that the City has gone in the past to protect it from damage during nearby construction.

Hopefully the fallen tree will be preserved instead of disposed of — or artists can create a new one to carry on its legacy.

Lead photo by

Becky Robertson

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