It's still too early to pin down when DC's cherry blossoms will bloom in 2020, and no peak bloom forecasts have been issued yet. Stay tuned for the first peak bloom forecasts to be announced around the beginning of March.
It has been a much warmer-than-normal winter so far. And there's not much in the available forecasts to suggest that that pattern is likely to change as we get into March. So all indications at this point suggest an early bloom. That said, we're dealing with the weather, and if we get a sustained cold spell in March, it can slow things down considerably.
There are several things to update on today. It stayed surprisingly sunny and warm through the weekend, and that has brought many more flowers out. While not every tree is flowering fully yet, overall they’re now close to full bloom. The NPS judged that 70 percent of the blossoms had reached the “puffy white” stage yesterday.
It now looks like peak bloom is likely to be ahead of the predicted range, perhaps around mid- to late-week. If you head down anytime in the next few days you won’t be disappointed–they’re looking lovely now, and as more flowers come out they’ll look even prettier.
But there’s an important wrinkle: the weather isn’t cooperating. The issue wasn’t the rain early this morning or the cool and breezy conditions today. It’s the cold front that’s coming through around Wednesday-Thursday. It looks like it might hit with a bang, with both heavy rain showers and very strong winds. Neither of those things is a good thing when the blossoms are moving into and past peak bloom and the petals start to get fragile, but together they amount to a one-two punch. Assuming the front comes through as strongly as currently expected, it’s very likely to knock some petals off, but it’s impossible to predict just how much damage it will do. It’s also possible it might not do much at all. We’ll just have to wait and see, and I’ll of course be following closely and posting updates.
Obviously, the trees don’t care what day of the week it is, and it looks increasingly likely that peak bloom will fall during the coming work week. But the reality is that many people can only visit on a weekend. So I’ve been getting a lot of questions from readers asking about which weekend is best. Here’s a quick state of play. As usual, the further ahead we look the more uncertainty there is, and things can change quickly.
This weekend (April 7-8). In terms of the bloom itself, this is the weekend that is likely to have the most flowers out. But the weather isn’t cooperating in the slightest. Firstly, there’s unsettled weather expected in the days leading up to the weekend. Heavy rain and strong winds that are expected midweek aren’t helpful as the flowers become fragile after they peak. It’s impossible to predict how much damage the weather will do to the blossoms before the weekend–we just have to wait and see. And to be clear, it’s quite possible that it won’t do much damage at all. And then once we get to the weekend itself it’s shaping up to be cold and wintry, with some forecasts even calling for a little snow.
Next weekend (April 14-15). The way weather conditions are shaping up, the odds are reducing that there’ll be much left to see on this weekend. But there’s still a chance there might be some flowers left. There’ll be plenty more updates before then so we can see how they’re tracking.
How Things Look Today
Videos from the Tidal Basin
I’ve started posting some short video clips from the Tidal Basin showing how things look using the Instagram Stories feature. So if you want an alternative view, you can find them there. I can also post them more quickly, before the more detailed updates post to the website.
You can find the Instagram account at @cherryblossomwatch.
The Maine Ave parking lot (near the paddle boats) is still closed for parking to make way for the Welcome Area. It will remain in place at least through April 15, and there have been adjustments made to the daily schedule:
the welcome area will now temporarily suspend weekday operations after Tuesday, March 27 and then resume daily operations from Saturday April 7 through Sunday, April 15.
You can find the full schedule here.
The special one-way traffic restrictions are in place along Ohio Drive, so you can’t enter down by the John Ericsson Memorial (the Lincoln Memorial end). Instead, you’ll have to do the circuit around the Jefferson Memorial. You can still park there, although during the day midweek you’ll be battling for spaces with all the tour buses bring school groups on spring break and during the weekend there’s a lot of competition for spots. Which makes an argument for using alternative transportation, especially on weekends, but even weekdays this week are shaping up to be very busy.
Magnolias at the Smithsonian Castle
They’re still looking great, but they’re moving past their prime now and shedding petals. They probably won’t last past the rain and wind later in the week, so if you want to catch them, I’d recommend going sooner rather than later.
Here are some shots of how they’re looking this morning.
Kwanzan Cherry Blossoms
Some readers have been asking about the Kwanzan cherry blossoms. These shots were taken this morning–there’s not much to see yet. On average, they bloom around 15 days later, but it can also be longer (up to a month).
I’ve been tracking this specific cluster of buds/flowers for a couple of weeks now. Here’s the latest shot. This tree is by the FDR Memorial.
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 history National Mall area. I'm not affiliated with the Trust--just an admirer of their efforts.