A man who spent over 24 hours perched near the top of a 24-metre sequoia tree in the middle of downtown Seattle finally climbed safely down just before noon PT.

As onlookers cheered and chanted "Man in tree" — in deference to the Twitter hashtag by which he became known — he sat down near the base of the conifer and appeared to be chomping on a piece of fruit. Officers initially kept their distance, but soon approached the man, got him on a gurney and took him for a medical evaluation.

Reasons for the drama remained unclear. At times, the man appeared agitated, gestured wildly, yelled and threw apples and branches at officers.

"Issue appears to be between the man and the tree," the Seattle Police Department tweeted at one point.

The department's tweet was just part of the online commotion the incident sparked, with new Twitter accounts dedicated to it and the hashtag #ManInTree trending on Twitter and Facebook. A local TV station live streamed video of the man online as he dozed, shouted and knocked around a stick.

Man In Tree Seattle

Pedestrians look across the street and up at a sequoia tree where a man was perched near the top of it Wednesday morning. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

Many passersby, seeming bemused by the man's antics, pulled out their cellphones Wednesday to snap pictures of his silhouette, accentuated by a long, bushy beard, against the grey morning sky.

Police have not said if the man is a member of the city's ballooning homeless population. Mayor Ed Murray declared a state of emergency as deaths of homeless people mounted last fall, and the city has authorized new tent cities and safe parking lots for those living without shelter or in their vehicles.

Janice Wilson, who was in town from Crescent City, Calif., to help her son deal with his own mental health and legal troubles, said she was once homeless herself, 30 years ago. She repeatedly shouted up to the man: "We love you! Come down safely!"

"I heard people out here laughing," she said. "If somebody's in crisis to the point of putting himself at risk of suicide, what's to laugh about? I just pray those branches don't break."

Seattle Department of Transportation officials said they will review the health of the tree, believed to have been transplanted there in the 1970s.