It's still too early to guess with any confidence 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.
The winter so far has been much warmer than normal. January and February have both tracked well above average. If that continues--and that's always a big "if"--it points to an earlier-than-average bloom, more late-March than early-April. But there's still plenty of time for cold weather to arrive and settle in, so it's still too early to predict with confidence.
The cool temperatures have kept the pace quite slow, but the cherry trees are making progress toward the bloom. It is technically possible to find some early blossoms out, but it’s only the tiniest fraction of them and you really have to go hunting for them. The vast majority of the trees still have some work to do before the flowers open. And the saucer magnolias are blooming in the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Castle. 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.
Many of the trees are around stages 3 and 4 (Extension of Florets and Peduncle Elongation) of the 6-stage progression tracked by the National Park Service. The NPS has judged that 70 percent of them have now reached or passed the Extension of Florets stage. And there are some that are a little further ahead–see below on the early bloomers.
Where You Can Find Cherry Blossoms Now
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. For now, it’s only the tiniest fraction of trees that have any flowers at all on them.
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.
And along Potomac waterfront between the Lincoln Memorial and the 14th Street Bridge you can come across weeping cherries, which are just starting to bloom. These were taken this morning of a tree down the Lincoln Memorial end of Ohio Drive.
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.
The saucer magnolias are blooming in the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Castle.
As it warms over the weekend it should bring them out more fully. Some of the trees aren’t quite as bursting with flowers as they have been in other years, but it’s still an extraordinarily pretty scene.
The Tidal Basin’s parking lot by the paddle boats is now closed and the welcome area is open for business today.
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).
The sunrises are particularly pretty at this time of year and make for some interesting possibilities because the sun is rising directly to the east around the spring equinox.
And with a clear morning like we had this morning, the sunlight shines in directly on the statue of Abraham Lincoln. I’ve taken similar shots over the past week or so with other cameras–you can see them in the previous updates. This morning I was shooting with the just-released Ricoh GR III. Here are some photos taken with it.
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.