Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 19, 2019

The National Park Service has judged that the trees have reached the "florets visible" stage. Many of the trees are beyond that, and from a distance you can see that the trees are getting a reddish-brown tinge as the bud development progresses.

DC Cherry Blossoms in 2021

It seems increasingly likely that DC will still be under COVID-19 restrictions in spring 2021 while the cherry blossoms are blooming. So it's shaping up to be a good year to follow along from afar from the safety and comfort of your home.

The National Park Service has judged that the trees have reached the “florets visible” stage. Many of the trees are beyond that, and from a distance you can see that the trees are getting a reddish-brown tinge as the bud development progresses.

The Tidal Basin’s parking lot is now closed as they set up the welcome area. The saucer magnolias at the Smithsonian Castle are starting to bloom. And the equinox is creating some spectacular sunrise scenes. More details below.

How It’s Looking This Morning

It’s another pretty and clear spring morning down at the Tidal Basin. Here are some shots of how things are looking this morning.

From a distance, you can see the trees starting to get a reddish-brown tinge as the buds progress.

Where to Find Cherry Blossoms This Weekend

Not all of the trees are on the same schedule. There are about a dozen different varieties. And even within the same variety, some trees naturally bloom earlier than others. There are some cherry blossoms blooming now, although it’s a very small number and you really need to go looking for them. The vast majority still have some work to do.

But if you’re out looking for cherry blossoms this weekend, it is possible to find at least some. Just don’t get your hopes up for many or that they’re especially photogenic.

There’s one tree over by the Jefferson Memorial that reliably blooms ahead of the others. It’s known as the indicator tree, and it’s starting to bloom now. Unfortunately, it’s not the prettiest tree and its few remaining branches are high up, making it hard to get good photos. You can see some examples from a couple of days ago, and I have information on how to find it here.

There’s also a fall/winter-blooming variety known as the Higan cherry, and you can find them bloom now. There aren’t many of them, the trees are quite small, and they don’t tend to be as bursting with flowers as the other varieties, but you can find several in the areas around the base of the Washington Monument.

This shot was taken this morning. You can find some more examples from a different patch of them in the previous update.

These are some of the Higan cherry blossoms in the area around the base of the Washington Monument.

Early Bloomers

These are of one of the other trees that also reliably blooms a little ahead of the other, although not as early as the indicator tree. I’ll aim to track this tree regularly as we move through the bloom. These are the same branch, with the newest at top. It’s not blooming yet, but the puffy white petals are starting to poke through.

March 19, 2019.

March 17, 2019.

Saucer Magnolias

The saucer magnolias are coming out but aren’t quite in full bloom yet. These are the ones at the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Castle.

These were all taken this morning. Interesting, several of the trees aren’t as jammed with buds as they often are, so it might be a slightly subdued bloom this year (but will still be beautiful!). They should be reaching peak with the warmer temperatures this coming weekend.

Several trees have branches like this with relatively few fully formed buds on them.


The Tidal Basin’s parking lot by the paddle boats is now closed and they’re setting up the welcome area.

Ohio Drive still has its regular traffic pattern, although it looks like it’s closed off if you try to enter from the Lincoln Memorial end. They’re doing some roadwork behind the John Ericsson Memorial, but you can still enter down there using a temporary entrance they’ve set up just next to it. It’s not especially clearly signed, but the entrance is there (for now, at least).

Fountains at the National World War II Memorial

Are back up and running after being shut down for the winter.

The fountains are back at the National World War II Memorial.

For Photographers

If you’re after something a bit different and willing to get up early, it’s the time of year when the sun lines up directly along the National Mall at sunrise. And with a clear morning like we had this morning, the sunlight shines in directly on the statue of Abraham Lincoln.

I posted a few shots from Sunday morning when I was trying out the new Sony a6400.

This morning I was shooting with the brand new Olympus OM-D E-M1X. (These shots were all taken this morning.)

Last updated March 19, 2019

View Comments

  • Greetings,

    First and foremost, thank you for this awesome guide.

    As the Jefferson Memorial is currently undergoing roof repairs and laser cleaning, how "intrusive" is the scaffolding, etc.?

    One additional question regarding after-dark safety, would you regard walking around after 2000 hrs foolish?

    Thank you!

    • It's not very intrusive at all. They have a staging area on the eastern side of the memorial, but it doesn't impact being able to go into the rotunda and around most of it.

      I've always been very impressed with how safe the area is, and at 8pm at night there will still be a lot of people around, especially at this time of year when many out-of-town school groups head out for a post-dinner visit to some of the monuments at dusk. I personally have no hesitation being there at that hour or even much later. It's also well lit at the memorial itself; some of the paths to and from less so. Obviously, you'd want to be aware your surroundings, as you normally would. There is nearly always a security guard or NPS staff member in or near the Rotunda. If you're parking in the lots under the 14th Street Bridge (past the George Mason Memorial), I'd dial up the awareness quite a bit because there are some dark and secluded areas around there, but again, I've never run into an issue.

  • Morning

    Know we will be early for full bloom but will be driving through DC on March 26th to see what we can see. That said since the area by the paddle boats is now blocked off where is the best place to park nearest the blossoms. Thanks for any advice you can provide.

    • If it stays cool, there's a reasonable chance. If it becomes warmer and windier, they'll disappear more quickly.

  • We will be visiting DC to see the cherry blossoms from Fri (early afternoon) on April 5th - Monday (late afternoon) on April 8th.

    In your opinion, David, what are the best times & locations to watch the sunrise and sunset at or near the Tidal Basin? (We want to schedule our dinner reservations outside of the time we need to arrive at (to get a good spot) and stay to watch the sunset, per your recommendation.)

    Thank you for your blog.

    • In terms of location, there's a long stretch along the western bank next to the FDR Memorial where, assuming it's a clear morning, you can get a great view of the sun rising up over the water and shining directly onto the cherry blossoms with the soft golden light. It's a long stretch of space and you won't have trouble finding a quiet spot to sit. If you want to line up the sunrise with the Jefferson Memorial, head up towards the Jefferson Memorial end--you'll see see a large cluster of photographers set up there with tripods to capture it. For sunset, the opposite bank, next to the to the Welcome Area/paddle boats has a similar effect as the sun sets over Arlington. It'll be more crowded and noisier, in part because of the time of day in an part because the amenities at the Welcome Area naturally draw crowds.

      For timing, you'll start to see the sun peeking over the horizon about 8-10 minutes after the technical sunrise time. It can also be very pretty before the sunrise, like this.

      Parking is always a challenge on the prime weekend of the bloom, which that weekend is predicted to be. If you're driving, I don't recommend cutting it too fine if you're arriving for sunrise. The traffic really can be quite bad even at that hour, especially with the special traffic and parking restrictions in place. So you don't want to be stuck in a traffic jam for the sunrise. On those prime weekends, I generally try to get there at least a half hour before sunrise if I'm driving and expecting to find parking, or perhaps even earlier. In the evening, all bets of are off for parking--it's just a challenge, and there are better ways to get to and from the Tidal Basin.

      • Thank you for this thorough response. This information is very helpful to us.

        Your sunrise photos (at the link you provided above) are incredible. We are really looking forward to watching the sunrise & sunset from your recommended spots.

  • How were the photos with the Sony a6400? I would curious what the photos utilizing that camera came out.

  • Nice to see that you got the Sony A6400. I got one for BIF and airshows as well. For the cherry blossoms I will use the A7RIII. :D.

  • Your photographs are exceptional!! Have you photographed any of the other areas that have cherry trees? We will be in town this weekend with time to go to 1 location. Was debating between the national aurboreum or the tidal basin. Am I missing a better location for better early blooms? This is the first year I will be near DC for cherry blossoms. Have always wanted to visit, but timing has never lined up.