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Stumpy, a Cherry Blossom That Has Become a Viral Sensation, Faces Removal in D.C.

“Stumpy has captured the hearts of residents and visitors alike with its remarkable story of survival against all odds," an online petition to save the tree reads

<p>MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty</p> People take photos of "Stumpy," the cherry tree at the Tidal Basin

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty

People take photos of "Stumpy," the cherry tree at the Tidal Basin
  • The impending removal of Stumpy and over 150 other cherry blossom trees is part of a construction project to rebuild the seawall of Washington, D.C.'s Tidal Basin

  • Stumpy became a social media sensation in 2020 and has attracted visitors

  • A Change.org petition is calling for the tree to be relocated to the National Arboretum

An unusual-looking cherry blossom tree in Washington, D.C., that has generated viral buzz on social media is slated for removal.

Nicknamed ‘Stumpy,’ the gnarled tree is one of over 150 other cherry trees scheduled to be taken down as part of a plan to replace the Tide Basin’s deteriorating seawall, the Associated Press reported.

In a March 13 press release issued by the National Park Service (NPS), the renovation will begin in late spring and early summer of this year, adding that there will be no construction activity impacting visitors to the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a multi-week event that begins in March when the trees bloom.  The construction is scheduled for completion by 2027 and is estimated to cost $113 million.

Related: Take a Google Earth Tour of the Most Beautiful Cherry Blossoms Around the World

<p>MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty</p> People take photos of "Stumpy," the cherry tree at the Tidal Basin

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty

People take photos of "Stumpy," the cherry tree at the Tidal Basin

The NPS said that the removal of 158 out of approximately 3,700 Japanese cherry trees, between the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, will commence in late May.

“This critical investment will ensure the park is able to protect some of the nation’s most iconic memorials and the Japanese flowering cherry trees from the immediate threats of failing infrastructure and rising sea levels for the next 100 years,” said the NPS’ statement.

<p>Alex Wong/Getty</p> High tide water reaches to the base of a cherry tree nicknamed "Stumpy" after a visitor left behind a thank you note at the Tidal Basin on March 20, 2024

Alex Wong/Getty

High tide water reaches to the base of a cherry tree nicknamed "Stumpy" after a visitor left behind a thank you note at the Tidal Basin on March 20, 2024

Per The Washington Post, Stumpy's roots regularly take the brunt of flood water from the Potomac River. But despite that, the tree still stands. “Stumpy is such a unique and well-loved tree because it’s small and deals with Tidal Basin flooding daily,” Dave Lyons, a photographer, told the newspaper.  “Yet it’s full of beautiful cherry blossoms. Everyone cheers for the little guy!”

The tree became a social media sensation in 2020 during the pandemic, the AP reported, and has since brought visitors who take photos and pose with Stumpy.

Related: Japanese Cherry Blossoms Hit Earliest Peak in 1,200 Years — and It's Likely Due to Climate Change

“Every year I have to come at least one day just to see Stumpy,” a visitor told NBC News, while another person said the famous tree, “It looks so decrepit. But it’s not. It’s full of life.”

Already there’s a call for Stumpy to be saved, with a Change.org petition asking the NPS to relocate the tree to the National Arboretum, also in Washington, D.C., “where it can continue to thrive in a protected environment while maintaining its cultural and historical importance.”

The petition, which as of Friday afternoon, generated 185 of its goal of 200 signatures, described Stumpy as the "little tree that could."

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“Stumpy has captured the hearts of residents and visitors alike with its remarkable story of survival against all odds," read the petition's description. "Despite enduring harsh conditions and facing numerous challenges, this tenacious tree has persevered, becoming a beacon of inspiration for our community.”

The NPS said in its announcement that when the renovation is completed, 455 trees, including 274 cherry trees, will be replanted.

In a statement to PEOPLE, the NPS said that transplanting the removed trees, including Stumpy, is not a viable option, writing: “Of greatest concern, removing a tree's roots from the ground for transplantation to a new location risks severing the roots of nearby trees that aren't slated for removal. In the end, an attempt to transplant this many trees could actually result in the loss of even more trees.”

But the NPS added that it is working with the National Arboretum “to preserve 'Stumpy's' legacy. They will propagate clippings from its living sections to create trees that are genetic matches, and when the seawall reconstruction is complete, we will plant them in the park.”

The agency also said that Stumpy and the other removed trees will be mulched and returned to the National Mall, “providing root protection and enriching the soil for living trees for generations to come.”

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