It hasn’t felt much like winter lately. It’s not often you can go outside around here in late-December in a t-shirt. But we’ve had an unusually warm and wet spell of record-breaking winter heat.
I’ve had a number of people ask whether the cherry blossoms are blooming early because of the warm weather. So I decided it was worth a visit to the Tidal Basin for some new photos.
The short answer is: No, they’re not.
But it’s not quite that simple. There have been cherry trees blooming recently on the National Mall. They’re a variety that blooms in the fall, and there are a handful scattered among the thousands of cherry trees of other varieties around the National Mall and Tidal Basin area. They were blooming in November and well into December. The Washington Post has more on them here. But the vast majority of the cherry trees still have a long way to go before they bloom in the spring, as you can see from the photos below.
The warm weather has also thrown off some of the other local plants, with some a bit confused about whether it’s winter or spring. You can even find a lot of daffodils sprouting (though not flowering), which is pretty early in the season for them.
It’s still too early to say whether the warm December will have much or any effect in bringing about an early peak bloom. There’s still a lot of winter to ride out. Even last year the early part of the winter was unremarkable, but that gave way to a very cold January, February, and March, that pushed the peak bloom back to well after the historical average. So, for now, we’re still in wait-and-see mode.
These were all taken this morning.
360° Virtual Tours
You can spin these around to get a 360° perspective in amongst the trees.
The Banks of the Tidal Basin
The water level fluctuates because the Tidal Basin is, well, tidal. And in some sections, that means that the water level regularly overflows. Within the past few years a new retaining wall was built around the Jefferson Memorial, and that part’s looking great and is high and dry.
But the section from the Jefferson Memorial around to the FDR Memorial isn’t looking its best. The heavy and consistent rain we’ve had lately hasn’t helped, with a lot of trash washed up on the southern bank. The shots below were taken as the high tide reached its peak.
Repairs to Kutz Bridge
One new development this year relevant to visitors to the see the cherry blossoms is that the pedestrian sidewalk along Kutz Bridge has been upgraded.
The bridge links the east and west banks of the Tidal Basin, and the sidewalk upgrade, which includes the installation of a new guardrail, is part of a larger project that also includes improvements to the road surface, stone masonry work on the bridge piers, and some structural repairs underneath.
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.