Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 11, 2020

Warm temperatures into the 70s are encouraging a cracking pace. If you look closely, you can see petals starting to show through the buds on many trees now.

DC Cherry Blossoms in 2021

It seems increasingly likely that DC will still be under COVID-19 restrictions in spring 2021 while the cherry blossoms are blooming. So it's shaping up to be a good year to follow along from afar from the safety and comfort of your home.

UPDATE: The NPS has pushed up their peak bloom prediction to March 21-24.

UPDATE: The National Cherry Blossom Festival is cancelling and postponing some Festival events occurring through March 31. You can read the announcement with details here.

Warm temperatures into the 70s are encouraging a cracking pace. If you look closely, you can see petals starting to show through the buds on many trees now. The indicator tree is in full bloom, as are some of the other early bloomers.

Last night, the Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang revised their peak bloom prediction, bringing it forward five days. Their new prediction is that the cherry blossoms will reach peak bloom sometime between March 20 and 24. You can read the detailed explanation of their reasoning here.

As of this morning, the National Park Service has not updated their prediction (March 27-30), but I wouldn’t be surprised if they move that forward sometime soon in light of the 70-plus-degree weather we’ve been seeing.

How it Looks at the Tidal Basin this Morning

It started out a beautiful, clear, and mild morning. Clouds are rolling in now.

Before sunrise this morning from inside the Lincoln Memorial. The lights on the Washington Monument are turned on overnight, but you might notice they’re off here. They’ve been turning off a bit before sunrise, even when it’s still quite dark. Taken with a Nikon Z7 + 24-70mm ƒ/4 lens.

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is still drained. It should be filled again sometime in the next week or two.

Petals poking through.

The tree clearly standing out here is the early bloomer that I focus on below.

It was a clear morning and not too far from the spring equinox, so the rising sun is shining in reasonably directly onto the statue of Abraham Lincoln. You can find more about this phenomenon here,

Early Bloomer

This is a tree I typically track through the blooming process, trying to focus in on the same specific small section to be able to see the day-by-day progress.

This is a different variety and is separate from the indicator tree (on the opposite side of the Tidal Basin), but it reliably marches ahead of the other trees by several days.

It’s also a good illustration of how even just a few days can make a big difference.

March 11

March 10

March 8

March 4

March 1

Indicator Tree

The indicator tree is one on the south-eastern side of the Tidal Basin that is reliably a week or two ahead of the others. I have more information on it, including how to find it, here.

It’s in full bloom. I didn’t get any shots of it this morning, but you can see some from yesterday here.

Things Happening Nearby

Elsewhere Around and Near the Tidal Basin:

  • The traffic patterns around West Potomac Park are normal. And the parking lot near the paddle boats is open—it hasn’t been closed to become the Welcome Area yet.
  • The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is drained for repairs. It’s likely to be drained through mid-March.
  • The Jefferson Memorial is covered in scaffolding to clean the domed roof. The project isn’t expected to be finished before May.
  • The water features of the FDR Memorial are still drained and turned off. They turn them back on once the risk of freezing has receded.
  • The Washington Monument is open and back in business and scaffolding-free.

Common Questions

Here are some answers to common questions I’ve been getting lately.

How Long Do the Cherry Blossoms Last?

As with so much about the cherry blossoms, it depends largely on the weather. In ideal conditions (cool, calm, dry), the cherry blossoms can last a week or even two. In less-than-ideal conditions (windy, warm, wet, stormy), they can be chased away in as little as four or five days.

I’ve put together a visual timeline using photos from previous years to give some practical examples of what you might expect to see X days before and after peak bloom.

Will the Cherry Blossoms Still Be Blooming at Easter?

The main ones will be done by Easter (which falls on April 12 this year).

But there’s another variety that blooms a couple of weeks after the main ones. They’re called the Kwanzan cherry, and while there aren’t as many of them, they are especially pretty. You can find more information, including a map of where to find them, on the Kwanzan cherry blossom page.

Where’s a Good Place to Stay for the Cherry Blossoms?

The most famous area for the cherry blossoms (but not the only place in the city you can find them) is around the Tidal Basin on the National Mall.

There’s a huge variety of lodging options available around the city, and I’ve put together some ideas on where to stay.

Will Coronavirus (COVID-19) Have any Impact?

I’ve been getting quite a few questions about the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on visiting the cherry blossoms. For obvious reasons, this is not something I’m in any position to offer advice on.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival has cancelled and postponed some Festival events occurring through March 31. You can read the announcement with details here.

Here are some relevant online resources that might be helpful:

Last updated March 11, 2020

View Comments

  • Commenting about your post from yesterday. Are the weeping cherry tree by the Potomac facing Reagan Airport or by the Wharf? Thanks

    • Arlington side. There are some near the George Mason Memorial, close to the 14th St Bridge, and some down near Lincoln Memorial end. There are also more up nearer the golf course, from memory, but I haven't looked at those in a while.

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