2023 Peak Bloom
The NPS judged that the Yoshino cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin reached peak bloom on March 23, 2023. They're now done for the year..
The cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin are in full bloom and are looking magnificent. They're still white, for the most part, but should gradually start shifting to a pale pink over the coming days. The blossoms are looking strong, and there's very little cherry blossom “snow” falling yet.
Many more people were out at the Tidal Basin this morning, and it was the busiest so far this year. So traffic was bad earlier this morning and is likely to remain difficult around the Tidal Basin area all day. If you are heading down and have the option to get there without driving, you'll save yourself the aggravation of dealing with traffic snarls and competition for parking. Metro is running extra services to help ease traffic congestion.
The National Park Service arborists determined that cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin had reached bloom as of yesterday (March 21).
So what does that mean?
I have a more detailed explanation of peak bloom separately, but here's the short version:
- The National Park Service has determined that 70 percent of the cherry blossoms are open.
What it doesn't mean:
- The cherry blossoms are looking any less beautiful today than yesterday.
- All of the blossoms are open. By definition, up to 30 percent of the blossoms haven't yet opened.
The Yoshino cherry blossoms, which are the most famous and most numerous around the Tidal Basin, start white and gradually turn a pale pink in the coming days, and the remaining buds are opening. It's why my personal favorite period is two to three days after peak bloom. That's when I've taken some of my favorite photos of them.
But the blossoms also get increasingly fragile. That's why the weather matters now–most importantly, wind and rain (or the storms that bring both at once). And it brings us to the the most common question I've been getting…..
Will the Cherry Blossoms Still be Out This Weekend?
I'd love to be able to give a firm “yes” or “no” to this question, but unfortunately, it's not that simple. My best guess is that they'll still be looking beautiful, but there is some risk thanks to some wet weather expected to arrive tomorrow into Thursday.
Once the cherry blossoms reach peak bloom, the clock starts. But how long the counter runs for is heavily dependent on the weather.
In the “right” conditions, the cherry blossoms can stay out and still be looking beautiful for up to around two weeks. The “right” conditions are cool, calm, and dry.
In the “wrong” conditions, they can be chased away much more quickly. In extreme cases, that can mean as little as 3-4 days (but most of the time it's longer than that). The “wrong” conditions are rainy, windy, hot, and stormy. As the petals become more fragile, they become more vulnerable to those kinds of weather.
For a visual sense of the variation, I've put together a timeline with photos from past years that shows how the cherry blossoms looking in the days before and after peak bloom. You can find it here.
The complication with spring weather in this region is that we can get a bit of everything. It's very much a transitional period, and it's not at all unusual to get storms and rain followed by strong winds. March can see very cool temperatures or very warm temperatures. It can be rainy or it can be dry. And thunderstorms can and do happen. So, basically, unsettled weather is normal.
Rain and possible thunderstorms predicted for Wednesday into Thursday aren't ideal. They're coming two to three days after peak bloom. It will knock some petals off, but odds are still good that the trees will still be looking beautiful once the wet weather has passed through. If the rain hangs around for longer or more storms come through, it will have more effect. I will of course be posting new photos and updates once the rain clears.
All that said . . . the blossoms should be looking beautiful through the rest of this week and coming weekend. But take that with a grain of salt, because ultimately it's up to the weather. And stay tuned for updates.
Logistics for Visiting
Ohio Drive has been switched to the special one-way traffic pattern. That will remain in place during the main bloom. So you'll need to enter up by the Jefferson Memorial; you won't be able to enter from the Lincoln Memorial End. There is parking along one side of Ohio Drive, but it's first-come-first-served and frequently fills up.
Welcome Area. The NPS is switching things up this year and has moved the Welcome Area from the old Maine Ave parking area to next to the MLK Memorial (West Basin Dr SW). So West Basin Dr SW is closed to traffic from Ohio Drive. That has displaced some disabled parking spots; they've been moved to a temporarily signed area about 100 yards or so away at the intersection of Ohio Drive and West Basin Dr SW).
Metro will be running extra services during the bloom. The closest stops are Smithsonian and L'Enfant Plaza. I have more information on getting to the cherry blossoms separately.
Please remember not to pick the blossoms, climb on the trees, or damage the branches. I've seen a number of people bending branches or climbing on the trees for a better pose, which risks breaking the fragile branches. Some of these trees are over a hundred years old. And this is a National Park, which means that it's illegal to damage natural resources within it. (And yes, that includes shaking and picking the blossoms.)
How it Looks at the Tidal Basin This Morning
It's a pretty and calm start to the morning. Glassy waters on the Tidal Basin, cool (but not cold) temperatures, and some porous clouds on the horizon all made for a gentle and quiet sunrise.
Here are some photos I took this morning to give a sense of how it looks down there today.