Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 13, 2020

The warm temperatures are still speeding things along. The NPS determined that 70 percent of the trees were in the "Peduncle Elongation" stage as of yesterday. Warm temperatures today will give them another jolt of energy before a cooler weekend.

Washington DC's famous cherry blossom reached peak bloom on March 28, 2021. They're now done for the year.

You can find the most recent updates here.

The warm temperatures are still speeding things along. The NPS determined that 70 percent of the trees were in the “Peduncle Elongation” stage as of yesterday. Because not all the trees are the same schedule, you can easily find many that are ahead of that, into the puffy white stage, and even the occasional blossom fully open. But most of them still have some work to do yet. Warm temperatures today will give them another jolt of energy before a cooler weekend.

The saucer magnolias are still in full bloom and looking beautiful. There are some photos of them below.

How it Looks at the Tidal Basin this Morning

The morning started damp and dreary, but it’s going to rapidly clear up with plenty of sunshine and breeze. And, most importantly for the cherry blossoms, it’ll be warm into the mid-70s. That’s going to give them another jolt of energy before a cooler weekend.

Occasionally, you can find blossoms coming out directly from the tree trunk. This is one example that’s on one of the oldest of the trees over by the Japanese Lantern.

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is still drained. Some rain showers overnight left some puddles in the V-shaped pool floor.

The one standing out here is the early bloomer I track more closely below.

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 13

March 11

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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 it from a distance very clearly standing out from its pre-blooming neighbors.

Saucer Magnolias

UPDATE: I’ve now heard back from folks at the Smithsonian. The Haupt Garden will close tomorrow (March 14) along with the museums and remain closed until further notice.

The saucer magnolias in the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Castle are still in full bloom and looking beautiful. There are some petals falling on the ground now; the warm and windy weather today will encourage more to come off. But for now, they’re looking splendid.

The Smithsonian Museums will be closed from tomorrow. I do not currently know whether the gates of the Haupt Garden will also be closed. There are other places around town with wonderful collections of saucer magnolias. Two good areas nearby are the George Mason Memorial (between Jefferson Memorial and 14th Street Bridge) and Rawlins Park.

Saucer Magnolias at the Enid A. Haupt Garden.

Saucer Magnolias at the Enid A. Haupt Garden.

Saucer Magnolias at the Enid A. Haupt Garden.

Saucer Magnolias at the Enid A. Haupt Garden.

Saucer Magnolias at the Enid A. Haupt Garden.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact?

In general, I plan to keep the Cherry Blossom Watch a virus-free zone to give everyone an escape from the constant news. At least, going forward. But I’m going to make an exception today because I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on visiting the cherry blossoms. For obvious reasons (i.e., I’m not a medical professional), this is not something I’m in any position to offer advice on beyond recommending heeding official guidance and common sense.

But there has clearly been impact for those visiting to see the cherry blossoms. The National Cherry Blossom Festival has canceled and postponed Festival events, including the parade and Petalpalooza. You can read the announcement with details here. It includes the Welcome Area (aka the setup in the parking lot next to the paddle boats), which will not be happening this year.

The Smithsonian Museums and National Zoo will be closed from tomorrow. That includes the Haupt Garden.

And while I haven’t yet heard anything official, it seems likely that the NPS food kiosks, information booths, and gift shops will probably be closed. During government shutdowns, they also seal off the interiors of some of the monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial; no word yet on whether they’ll do that in this case, but it remains a possibility.

Here are some relevant online resources that might be helpful:

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.

Want to Help Support DC's Cherry Trees?

If you'd like to help support the care and upkeep of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin, the Trust for The National Mall has launched an Endow a Cherry Tree Campaign. Donations go to the official Cherry Tree Endowment, which will give the National Park Service additional resources to fund the care, maintenance, and possible replacement of the cherry trees. You can find more information here.

The Trust is dedicated to marshaling private support for maintaining and improving the historic National Mall area. I'm not affiliated with the Trust--just an admirer of their efforts.

Last updated March 13, 2020

View Comments

  • We got a permit to have engagement photos taken around the Tidal Basin on Friday, March 27th. Will we still be able to access the area despite the closures? Any other suggestions for where to have photos taken? Thank you!

    • I know of no plans to try to physically restrict access, nor would it seem a logical step. There are many other good spots, including around East Potomac Park/Hains Point, but your photographer will almost certainly have some favorite spots.

  • Thanks for the update, David. I was going to go to the Haupt Garden on Saturday morning. Thanks for saving me the trip.