Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 19, 2020

The cherry blossoms are heading into full bloom, but they're not quite at peak yet. There are still plenty yet to pop. It's a dreary morning so far, but it should warm up dramatically this afternoon and tomorrow.

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.

The cherry blossoms are heading into full bloom, but they’re not quite at peak yet. There are still plenty yet to pop. It’s a dreary morning so far, but it should warm up dramatically this afternoon and tomorrow. That warming is very likely to push the blossoms to peak.

They’re looking a bit waterlogged this morning, but they’re still looking lovely, especially up close. Most of them start white and will gradually shift to a light pink in coming days.

Today sees the spring equinox, but there was no chance of glimpsing an equinox sunrise this morning.

If you have a story or memory about visiting DC’s cherry blossoms in years past that you’d like to share, please see below.

Cherry Blossom Memories & Stories

In previous years, I’ve posted selections of reader photos of the cherry blossoms. With so many people not able to visit this year, that’s obviously not going to work this time.

Instead, it might be fun to try something new: cherry blossom stories. DC’s cherry blossoms have a special place in many peoples hearts and memories. Friends who have a decades-long standing date for sunrise breakfast under the trees every year. Ailing relatives fulfilling a lifelong wish. Engagements under the flowers. Or fond memories of a visit.

If you’d like to share a story or memory about your own visits to DC’s cherry blossoms, please do. It doesn’t need to be long. I’ll select some and share them as part of the updates on the site in coming days (although I won’t be able to include all of them). You can remain anonymous, and I might edit them lightly to take out anything that identifies specific people. There’s no prize beyond the satisfaction of knowing that you’re brightening our day.

You can copy and paste your story in the contact box here:

[The contribution form is closed.]

How It Looks at the Tidal Basin This Morning

It’s damp and dreary, but at least the rain has stopped. There are far fewer people out today than were there for yesterday’s clear and sparkly sunrise.

I’m posting these photos here not to encourage people to visit but rather for the many readers who have sensibly chosen to follow along from afar this year. Health officials strongly recommend avoiding crowded areas and practicing social distancing in order to help contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). To that end, I’m dispensing with the usual logistical information related to visiting the Tidal Basin area. And I will only post updates only when it’s possible for me to do so while still sticking to those recommendations.

So, for all those following along at home, here are some shots of how the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park are looking today. Later this morning I’ll add some 360-degree videos for a different perspective.

The Japanese Pagoda.

These are petals falling on the ground from the rain under one fo the early bloomers (the one I track in detail below). This is an outlier–the vast majority of the trees are not yet losing their petals.

NPS has put up some of these signs at some of the main entrances to the Tidal Basin as reminders.

360-Degree Video at the Tidal Basin

For a different perspective, here’s a 360-degree video. A bit dreary, as you can see, but it should warm and improve as the day goes on.

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. As you can see, it’s now well past its prime, and with the rain the petals are coming off and covering the ground.

March 19

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March 1

Is the Tidal Basin Still Open?

The Tidal Basin area remains accessible. Whether it’s a good idea is another matter. I’d refer you to the NPS statement that I’ve added to the top of every page (in the yellow box).

It’s also worth remembering that there are plenty of other areas with cherry blossoms and with far fewer people. National Arboretum remains open and is a very large outdoor space. There are thousands of trees along East Potomac Park (where some of the photos today were taken) and hardly any people.

And there are some wonderful books on DC’s cherry blossoms to inspire you for your visit next year, when the trees will be looking wonderful. Here are a some of my favorites:

And if you’re looking for some kids’ activities (I know we are!), there’s a cherry blossom book just for kids:

Cherry Blossoms Say Spring (National Geographic Kids)
  • Esbaum, Jill (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

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Last updated April 30, 2020

View Comments

  • Regrettably I have decided to postpone my trip to Washington DC. I was looking forward to seeing all the beautiful cherry Blossom trees. I have until the end of the year to re-scheule my trip. When is another good time to visit D.C?
    What do you recommend.

    • There's not really a bad time to visit, and it's obviously unclear when things will settle down to "normal" again. September/October is often a nice time to visit. Temperatures and humidity are settling down, the trees are still looking pretty, and with schools going back it can be less crowded in places like the Smithsonian museums. For now, though, it's not clear when things will start opening up again.

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