Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 19, 2015

Wintry mix and even snow are forecast overnight, but it won't trouble the trees or change the existing peak bloom forecasts.

The snow and ice is finally all gone from around the Tidal Basin. But just when you thought it was safe to put away the snow gear, there's one more bout of snow and wintry mix on the way.

It's cool and sunnyish this morning. NPS arborists are out doing some pruning and maintenance on the cherry trees to keep them healthy. They're clearly doing something right. Thanks to the expert care of the NPS, some of these trees are over a century old now, which is unusually old for these kinds of trees.

As you can see in the photos below, the buds are getting more developed, although they still have some work to do. And if you compare it with the photos from exactly one year ago today, the buds are about where they were this time last year. From a distance, the trees are starting to get the faint reddish-brown color from the color of the outside of the buds.

You can find photos of the trees from exactly one year ago today here and exactly two years ago here. And in a good illustration of how much it fluctuates from year to year, at this time in 2012 the cherry blossoms were already peaking (photos here).

The warmth of the past few days have helped some of the daffodils and tulips with some noticeable growth spurts. I haven't yet come across any daffodils blooming, but some of the buds are getting much closer. And there are some other early flowers just starting to come out.

Nearby, with some schools on spring break, fleets of tour buses have descended on Ohio Drive. And the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is still drained.

There haven't been any changes to the peak bloom forecasts. The cold snap overnight tonight won't trouble the trees or upset the current peak bloom forecast. And a reminder that you can always find the latest forecasts here.

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.

Last updated December 31, 2015 1:57 pm

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  • Following your site for updates. I am trying to plan a trip to take my Sister to the Cherry Blossoms in full bloom. She has always wanted to see them in full bloom. I am looking at April 12 and April 19th as possibilites for our travel. Would one week make a difference that much in our travels to see them? Thank you for your updates.

    • Yes, a week makes a big difference. In general, you can first start seeing blossoms for maybe up to a week before the peak bloom date, and they get better and better as you get closer to the peak bloom date. After the peak bloom date they can disappear pretty quickly, especially if it's warm, windy, or stormy, all of which are pretty common at this time of year. In that case, they can be well on their way out 3-4 days after the peak bloom date. So, for instance, if the peak bloom date happens to fall on April 12, which is within the range of both major forecasts, they'll most likely be on their way out by April 15-16. Unless the forecasts are way off, which is unlikely but not impossible, April 19 will almost certainly be too late to catch them. You can see some photos of how they looked 5 days after the peak bloom last year, when peak bloom fell on April 10, here. There are other varieties of cherry blossoms nearby that bloom later--some up to 12 days or so later--but the most famous cherry blossoms don't hang around long.

      • I had to gamble and pick dates months ago. Any chance at all of seeing even one flower by March 31? I'll take one, I've never seen them in person. I can zoom in on it and frame it with a bunch of bare branches. It'll be super poetic.

        • Over near the Jefferson Memorial, a little to its east, there's one tree known as the indicator tree that, for some reason, consistently blooms about a week before the others. If there's going to be anything out, that's probably your best bet. I'll keep an eye on it as we get closer to the date.

      • David Coleman. Thank you so very much! I will then plan for the 12th. I did not think the blooming ended so quickly! I appreciate the picture of last years after the bloom just days after peak. That gave me an idea as well to get my Sister over there! I am taking her on one of the cruises and needed to pick a date. You helped so very much in all my planning. She will be very excited!

        • You're welcome. It's always worth bearing in mind that it is possible for the forecasts to be revised as we get closer to the date. That said, the latest peak bloom on record is April 18, and there's so far no indication that that record is under threat.

  • March 19 has went through a MAJOR downward spiral.

    2012: The day before peak bloom; Dec-Feb 2011-12 was so mild, it was barely winter at all.
    2013: Florets may be visible; Dec-Feb 2012-13 may still be somewhat tranquil, but March and April were abnormally snowy.
    2014: Green Buds shown after a St. Patrick's Day snow storm; The ENTIRE period from December 1, 2013 - March 31, 2014 were abnormally cold and snowy from start to finish.
    2015: Nothing yet as ice just melted away; 2014-15 was not as notably cold overall compared to the preceding season, as it was predominantly mild in December 2014, January 2015, and early February 2015, but conditions in late February and early March of that year were so frigid, not even the coldest of Januaries were THAT cold. As a result, the Tidal Basin and the Potomac River were frozen solid well into March, which has never happened this late before.

    Now THAT'S a downward spiral, I cannot believe the East has hit rock bottom in 2015. I wonder what next year will be like ...

    2016: Undeveloped buds still frozen solid and covered in snow; Winter 2015-16 is predicted to be the third consecutive abnormally vicious and relentless season, but even if the winter of 2015-16 turns out to be a warm and mild one like 2011-12, February 2016 is still definitely going to be even COLDER than February 2015 anyway. There's no way next February-March will be any milder than what we had this year and you know how cold February 2015 was, don't you?

    Ouch, next year's peak bloom would likely be April 12-16, 2016, if the NPS really predicts that forecast window for next year.

    ... and so the steep downward spiral continues.

  • Hi David:

    I noticed the Lincoln Memorial reflection pool is drained. When do they typically fill it with water? Are those cones a good sign? We are traveling to DC this weekend and are already disappointed because we won't get to see the cherry blossoms bloom and it would really suck if we can't even get reflection shots. Any suggestions? I'm a photography student and was looking forward to taking some cool shots back to class in FL. Thanks!

    • Yes, draining the Reflecting Pool is a relatively new thing since it was renovated a few years ago. Before that it just used to freeze over in winter. Some of the other water features, like the ones at the World War II Memorial, are also drained in winter. I'm not sure the cones are indicative of anything in particular--they've been there for a while now. I'm afraid I don't know what the schedule is for filling it. When I've spoken to NPS folks in the past about it, it seems to be very much up to when temperatures are expected to consistently remain above freezing, which could mean anytime now. For alternate sites for reflections, some good options are the Capitol Reflecting Pool at the other end of the Mall (here's an example), the Tidal Basin (example, and another), or the pond in Constitution Gardens (example). The Tidal Basin, in particular, is more susceptible to the slightest breeze, but on a still night (or early morning) they can all work well. In the right conditions, even the Potomac can work. I have some other info for photographers here that might be of interest.

  • We didn't even know anything about the Cherry Blossom's and booked a little trip over the Easter Weekend so hoping to see some ripe buds and a flower or two. Looking back at the pics of what the trees look like a week before Peak bloom, doesn't look like many are fully open but I'll keep my fingers crossed. The 'indicator' tree near the Jefferson memorial is interesting...where is that memorial?

    • The Jefferson Memorial is one of the three big memorials right on the banks of the Tidal Basin. It's on the southern side, and you can't miss it once you're there. Here's more info on it.

  • Thank you so much for posting these updates! It will be our first trip to D.C. and we really want to see the cherry blossoms at their finest! We rescheduled our 3/20-3/22 trip to peak blossom time based on your pics and updates. Looking forward to seeing spring at it's best!

  • Hi. Watched your post last year, and it is really cool to follow the cherry blossom on your website. I lived in d.c. before, and the cherry blossom is the most romantic scene in the city! <3 :)

  • Can you give us more update about the cherry blossoms of this week? Im planning my trip to washing d.c next weekend, do you think the the cherry blossoms would be on peek at that time?

  • I am planning a trip to DC for the 17-19th of April this year. The peak bloom at this point is predicted for the 11-14th. Do you anticipate there still being a chance of seeing good flowers on the 18th?

    • It all depends on where in the forecast window the peak bloom comes, and if the forecast holds. If the peak bloom comes on April 14th, there could still be a lot of flowers to see on the 17th and it could be absolutely beautiful. Here are some photos from last year taken 3 days after the peak bloom. Compare those to these taken just 2 days later.

  • Any picture update from these last couple of days? Very hopeful I get to see some blooms next weekend.

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