Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 23, 2018

Ever so slowly we're starting to see some movement. The snow has gone, and there are more flowers just gradually starting to peek out.

UPDATE: Within minutes of each other, both the National Park Service and the Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang revised their peak bloom prediction again, pushing them back even further. Both now agree, with a new prediction of April 8 to 12. Further details here.
DC's cherry blossoms reached peak bloom on April 1, 2019. They're now done for the year.

Ever so slowly we’re starting to see some movement. The snow has gone, and there are more flowers just gradually starting to peek out. The indicator tree is in full bloom, but the vast majority still have some work to do and most are around the extension of florets/peduncle elongation stages.

If you’re heading down to the Tidal Basin this weekend, you won’t find many cherry blossoms out, but you can find at least some. I have some tips below on specific places you can find some.

Where to Find Cherry Blossoms This Weekend

There’s only a tiny number of cherry blossoms blooming now, but they are there if you go hunting for them. Some of them are different varieties that usually bloom just a little earlier than the most famous and numerous variety, the Yoshinos. The earlier blooming varieties are the Weeping, Afterglow, and Okama cherry trees, but there’s the occasional Yoshino also starting to show some flowers along with the indicator tree, which is in full bloom now.

Here are some tips on where to find some.

Indicator Tree. It’s in full bloom now. This is a single tree that is usually a week to ten days or so ahead of the rest. It’s not the prettiest tree, and it’s a hard one to photograph because its branches are high and fairly sparse. It’s about a hundred yards or so east of the Jefferson Memorial. I have a detailed post on how to find it.

Next to FDR Memorial. Along the banks of the Tidal Basin next to the FDR Memorial you can find the occasional tree that’s just starting to bloom. Some of the photos below were taken there. The best bet is along the section that sticks out a bit into the Tidal Basin where some of the oldest trees are. Look for a couple of big, old cork trees, one of which is lying horizontally to the ground–there are some early blooming trees right near there.

Next to MLK Memorial. Most of the trees here aren’t blooming yet, but there’s one of the old trees is just starting to pop some flowers. There’s only a dozen or so flowers on it this morning, but there might be a few dozen by the end of the weekend. Standing next to the water at the MLK Memorial facing the Jefferson Memorial, turn left towards the Washington Monument. About three of four trees along you’ll find the one that’s starting to show some flowers.

Weeping Cherries. There are some Weeping Cherry trees nearby that are starting to bloom properly. Easy ones to find are along the waterfront of the Potomac near the George Mason Memorial (across street from the magnolias, right along the river) and back further near the ferry docking point where the road turns in towards the FDR and MLK Memorials.

Magnolias. I also highly recommend visiting the magnolias in the garden behind the Smithsonian Castle.

Logistics: March for Our Lives Rally

The March for Our Lives Rally is on Saturday. Organizers are planning for up to 500,000 people. Turnout might end up being lower or higher than that.

It is nominally focused on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and Capitol Hill, but there will be spillover into surrounding areas. There will be many road closures in that area and lots of traffic, so definitely avoiding driving anywhere near the National Mall or downtown area. The roads around the Tidal Basin are technically scheduled to remain open, but I still strongly recommend not trying to drive and park down there because of the bottlenecks that will likely develop getting to and from.

Metro is laying on extra service starting at 7am. Some of the stops right in the midst of the rally permit area (like Federal Triangle) will be closed, but there are many other alternative stations nearby that you can use (like Smithsonian, Metro Center, or L’Enfant Plaza). I have some suggestions for other ways to get to the Tidal Basin here.

The scheduled program runs from noon through 3pm, although there will be lots of people out and about before and after that.

The Washington Post has a very good overview of logistics here.

If you’re coming in from out of town, don’t be put off. Yes, it’s going to be a lot of people, but the area can take an enormous number of people quite comfortably and does so quite regularly–it’s a DC specialty. Expect crowded metros and snarled anywhere near the downtown area. Popular attractions nearby like the Smithsonian museums and National Gallery of Art are likely to be more crowded than normal. But if you allow extra time to get anywhere and be flexible with plans (and aren’t trying to drive) you shouldn’t have too many issues.

How Things Look This Morning

Here are some shots from this morning to give a sense of what you can expect to find this weekend.

These are on one of the old Yoshinos a few trees to the east of the MLK Memorial statue.

A weeping cherry. This particular one is on the banks of the Potomac near the ferry dock (close to FDR Memorial).

These are on one of the old Yoshinos a few trees to the east of the MLK Memorial statue.

Indicator Tree

It’s in full bloom now.

For Photographers

Sony Trade-In Offer at B&H Photo

Coinciding with the release of their new Sony A7III, Sony is putting an aggressive marketing push behind the other cameras in their Alpha range. That includes a trade-in deal where you can trade in your old non-Sony gear for one of their newer cameras (but not the brand-new A7III, it seems). You can get a quote immediately online as well as get a special trade-in bonus. You can find details at B&H Photo.

And stay tuned for my upcoming hands-on reviews of the brand new Sony A7III as well as the Sony A7RIII, both of which will be posted on my main site havecamerawilltravel.com.

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 March 23, 2018 2:08 pm

View Comments

  • Is parking on Ohio Drive during the March for Our Lives is okay during sunrise? Is leaving in and out should also be okay?

    • Technically, yes, in that it's not one of the streets that's scheduled to be closed. How many other people have the same idea, and how difficult it will be to get out of there with the flow-on traffic snarls in the area I don't know.

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