It's a selfie frenzy. It's botanical madness. It's cherry blossom time in Toronto!
Have I ever bothered to care? Nope, not really. Not because I don't like plants (I like plants very much) but rather because I've never been particularly obsessed with Japan or selfies. It's just so far... and all that way just to see some trees in bloom? Seems excessive. There are beautiful trees and shrubs popping everywhere right now, and many of them even more amazing than cherry trees. I can see one from my back window and it's more glorious.
But this year, I was in the area shooting the West End Food Co-Op for a blog article and decided it was perfect weather to talk a walk. (Or, hop in an Uber morelike because it's only April and I'm not quite ready for an hour walk in 22 degree weather.) So I arrived in High Park near Grenadier Pond with only about an hour to spare before I had to be on the subway heading towards another appointment. I'm not sure what I expected... but it wasn't quite what I saw.
I expected a lot of people. I'd heard about the crowds. Okay, seems legit. I expected a bunch of trees in bloom. There was also that. But there were more people than I expected and 90% had cameras in their faces trying for the perfect selfie or Instagram post. Very few people appeared to be there simply to enjoy the beauty. I guess it's sort of difficult to do when everyone else is bumping into you and crawling over every inch of the grass.
As I mentioned on the photo gallery page, there were two boys that stood out as they appeared to really care about the trees themselves -- something it appears too many people take for granted. (Which sort of fits with the tourist M.O. of showing up, snapping Instagram pics, and trampling all over nature with no respect. But that's a rant about Toronto for another day...) Luckily I didn't see any of the notorious bad behaviour that has become associated with cherry blossom time in High Park. There were no children (or young adults...) climbing the trees. There wasn't a single person molesting a branch to shake the delicate petals off for the perfect Facebook profile pic. Yet we know it happens. The signs are everywhere politely and humorously asking people to not do that bad thing, as per the Canadian way.
"Please Keep Off The Bloomin' Trees!"
So quirky and unthreatening.
I have heard rumblings that the trees in High Park aren't doing well and aren't expected to make it through the next 5 years. This is partly due to climate but primarily due to abuse by visitors to the sites. In order to mitigate the damage being done to the trees, the City has decided to relieve the pressure on High Park sakuras by planting a new grove in Woodbine Park. They're building a tunnel! A cherry tree tunnel in the Beaches! (Yes, Beaches. Don't even get me started.) It's expected to reduce the number of people who flood High Park annually with blossom fever.
I remember exam days at U of T and the sakura tunnel beside Robarts. I was always too distracted by severe end of year anxiety to even appreciate what we had right there on campus. So if you're in the neighbourhood of Harbord and Huron, help out the High Park trees and take your selfies there instead. Trinity-Bellwoods is also an alternative. But if you're like me and have never done the cherry blossom thing, you'll probably be drawn to High Park not sorely for the blooms but for the sheer spectacle.
So, please, if you want to enjoy the cherry vistas, take care and respect the trees. They're non-native (and non-invasive) and fragile. Yes, they make wonderful backdrops for the perfect springtime portrait but they're not like our hardy oaks and pines, or even our crab apple trees (which are also fantastic in the spring bloom, as most fruit trees are, jsyk!).