The Broccoli Tree, Or: The Dangers of Sharing Photos of What We Love

Here’s a fascinating 4-minute video by vlogbrothers that tells the sad and infuriating parable of The Broccoli Tree. It’s a tale that shows the dangers of photo sharing in the modern Instagrammed world.

It all started back in May 2013, when Swedish photographer Patrik Svedberg stumbled across a tree that reminded him of a huge stalk of broccoli. He posted the photo to his personal Instagram account and received a handful of likes.

Over the following days, months, and years, however, Svedberg kept passing by the tree and rephotographing it in different seasons, times of day, lighting conditions, and weather. Pretty soon, he started a dedicated Instagram account for the project called @thebroccolitree.

June 3, 2014.

A post shared by A tree on Instagram (@thebroccolitree) on

September 26, 2017. Good night 👋🌳

A post shared by A tree on Instagram (@thebroccolitree) on

Before long, Svedberg’s new Instagram had amassed tens of thousands of followers, and the tree became more and more famous. Google Maps listed The Broccoli Tree as a destination in Huskvarna, Sweden, and people began paying visits to the tree to see it in person.

But then in September 2017, the unthinkable occurred: Svedberg visited the tree and was horrified to find that someone had taken a saw to one of the tree’s main trunks (shown in the second photo of the slideshow below).

Ever since the tree got viral a couple of years ago the number one joke has been ”what if someone cuts it down..?” Or ”What´s next, maybe you should cut it down and take photos haha.” I´ve never had good answer to that question, or joke. It´s not like we´re planted together, we live different lives the tree and I. This question was so common so I guess it was just a matter of time before some guys mentally retarded enough would crawl up from under a stone and make it happen as a part of a bet or something. Clearly it´s a obsession in lots of minds out there for some inscrutable reason. One of the trees branches has now (a couple of days ago..?) been sawn in almost all the way through and it´s just a matter of time before it´ll fall off. I won´t be around to document it, others will for sure so I guess you lunatics who did it can enjoy every moment. You can win a bet. Get cheered at. Even get a bit infamous. Congrats. What an accomplishment. I guess you were excited like little children while you did it, must have taken quite a while. For sure you are excited now, aspecially when the word is out. Now is your moment. High fives, maybe some back slapping. Suck it in. Time will erode those memories, excitement will turn into second thoughts. But the saddest thing of all, however You absolutely cannot un-saw a tree. —– I leave the judgement to others and have to move on to work, you can talk to each other about this below of course, but I feel for now this is what I have to say in this matter. Cheer up, there will be a tomorrow after this. // Patrik

A post shared by A tree on Instagram (@thebroccolitree) on

“[…] I guess it was just a matter of time before some guys mentally retarded enough would crawl up from under a stone and make it happen as a part of a bet or something,” Svedberg wrote. “You absolutely cannot un-saw a tree.”

Days later, the tree was completely chopped down and removed.

“To share something is to risk losing it especially in a world where sharing occurs at tremendous scale and where everyone seems to want to be noticed even if only for cutting down a beloved tree,” says Seth Radley in the vlogbrothers video. “If we hoard and hide what we love, we can still lose it. Only then, we’re alone in the loss.

“You can’t unsaw a tree but you can’t unsee one either.”

You can find more photos and info about The Broccoli Tree on its website, Facebook, and Instagram.

(via vlogbrothers via Laughing Squid)

Update: After being sawed and vandalized, authorities reportedly made the decision that the whole tree had to be removed.