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..
It was a pretty sky right before sunrise this morning. And there was a chilly breeze that made things a bit uncomfortable for the couples taking engagement photos. Rain is due around lunchtime, with possible thunderstorms overnight.
Not all of the trees are on precisely the same schedule. There are still plenty of flowers yet to open over on the eastern side (Kutz Bridge, past the paddle boats, around to Jefferson Memorial). These catch the afternoon sun.
The trees around the MLK Memorial, which were among the first to bloom this year, are also the first to be losing their petals. There's a lot more cherry blossom “snow” around that area than elsewhere around the Tidal Basin. Even without rain or much wind so far, warm temperatures have meant that the progression has been brisk. But the blossoms elsewhere around the Tidal Basin are still going strong.
The Indicator Tree is done aside from a few stray petals clinging on, but it hasn't yet started leafing out.
There's not much to report on the Kwanzan cherry blossoms yet. They're still in the green bud stage. There's a few photos of them from this morning at the bottom of this post.
Will the Cherry Blossoms Still be Out This Weekend?
There's naturally a lot of people asking this.
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 visual 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. And I have more detailed information on how rain and storms affects the cherry blossoms in a separate post.
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 while it would be wonderful if we could predict with much certainty, the reality is that it really depends on the weather. Particularly heavy rain or particularly strong winds can be a problem. And we've had warm temperatures, which have kept the progression moving along briskly.
Rain and possible thunderstorms 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. The worst hit are likely to be those around the MLK Memorial, which were among the earliest to bloom and are getting fragile. The trees over on the paddle boat side are likely to fare better because they're a little behind in the process.
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. We'll have a better sense tomorrow morning.
Logistics for Visiting the Cherry Blossoms
I have more detailed information in these posts:
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, no matter how pretty falling cherry blossom “snow” might be.)
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.
How it Looks at the Tidal Basin This Morning
Kwanzan Cherry Blossoms
The Kwanzan cherry blossoms bloom later than the more famous Yoshino cherry blossoms. There are fewer of them in the area around the Tidal Basin, but they're particularly pretty. You can find more information about them here.
For now, they're still back at the green bud stage and have some work to do before blooming. Here's how some near the Tidal Basin were looking this morning.