Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 26, 2018

The slow trickle continues. It's becoming a little easier to find some scattered flowers out this morning, but most of them aren't there yet. But if milder temperatures arrive later in the week, as expected, it will inject some energy into their progress.

UPDATE: The National Park Service has determined that 70 percent of the cherry blossoms have reached the "extension of florets" stage as of today.
DC's cherry blossoms reached peak bloom on April 1, 2019. They're now done for the year.

The slow trickle continues. It's becoming a little easier to find some scattered flowers out this morning, but most of them aren't there yet.

It has been sunny and clear over the weekend, and continuing today, making for pretty spring weather. But it's still unseasonably cool. So far for March we're averaging 4 degrees below normal. According to current forecasts, there are some milder temperatures coming later in the week. If those arrive, it will help inject some energy into the cherry blossoms' progress.

Revised Peak Bloom Forecasts

In case you missed the updates on Friday, both the National Park Service and the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang pushed their peak bloom predictions back again. Both now predict peak bloom to fall between April 8 and 12.

You can find more details here.

It's good news for those running in the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on April 8.

What to Expect

With the new changes to the peak bloom forecasts late last week, I've been getting a lot of people asking whether there'll be flowers to see on such and such a day.

So here's a broad outline of what we can expect. But first, one important thing to bear in mind with all of this is that you don't have to be here right on the peak bloom day to see a wonderful spectacle. "Peak bloom" is a technical determination that refers to 70 percent of the Yoshinos being out. But there are flowers to see in the days before and after that. Personally, I actually prefer them 2 to 3 days after peak bloom when they're starting to turn pink and still looking lush. So if you miss the specific peak bloom day by a day or two, it certainly doesn't mean you're missing out on the spectacle.

Right now, there's a very small number of flowers out. You really have to go hunting for them, but they are there. But as you can see from the photos below, it's still a long way from the grand spectacle we heading toward. If you haven't yet made plans to visit or have flexible plans, I'd hold off on visiting for a while yet.

Between now and peak bloom, more and more flowers will be coming out each day. In these cool temperatures, it's barely a trickle. If milder temperatures come later in the week, as they're currently expected to do, it will speed things up some.

So if you're planning to visit this coming Easter weekend, you can be confident that there will be at least some flowers out. It's impossible to say just yet what "some" will look like. It will be more than today, but is still likely to be a relatively small proportion (remembering that we're talking about thousands of trees). But you'll be able to find some without much trouble. While most of the trees are further behind, there are quite a few that aren't far from flowering and might be tipped over the edge with some warm days later this week. I'll be posting more updates through the week and include updated tips on where you can find blossoms on the weekend.

The spectacle will keep building as we head closer to peak bloom. From the wide range of development stages the trees are currently in, it looks like it might be quite a drawn out blooming process rather than a sudden explosion of flowers.

A day or two after peak bloom the flowers will gradually turn pink and their numbers start to diminish. They can hang around a week or more in the right conditions (cool, dry, calm) but hurry out more quickly if its warm, windy, rainy, or stormy. And spring weather around here is a real mixed bag, so we could end up with any combination of those. I've put together a photo timeline using photos from past years that give some idea of what you can expect to see, when.

Logistics

The special one-way restrictions along Ohio Drive are now in place. So you can't enter down the Lincoln Memorial end--you have to go around the Jefferson Memorial.

The Maine Ave parking lot (next to the paddle boats) is closed to parking and is where the Welcome Center is set up. The original schedule was for the Welcome Center to stay until April 1. I haven't yet seen an official announcement, but I suspect that in light of the new peak bloom forecasts it might be extended.

How Things Look This Morning

This is one of the old Yoshinos close to the MLK Memorial.

Marines practicing for the Marine Corps Sunset Parades. Because of renovations going on at the usual venue at the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Sunset Parades this summer will be held in the plaza in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Taken with a Sony a7rIII and a Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA lens.

It's still close enough to the equinox that the rising sun shines directly into the chamber and onto the statue of Abraham Lincoln on a clear sunrise. Taken with a Sony a7rIII and a Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA lens.

If it looks like there's two giant spotlights shining onto the Lincoln Memorial, it's because it basically is. One is the sun itself, which because it's still around the equinox and the sun is rising close to direclty east, shines directly into the chamber onto the statue. The second light source is the sun's reflection off the very still Reflecting Pool. Which is why you get those unusual shadows. Taken with a Nikon D810 and a Sigma 105mm ƒ/2.8 macro lens.

One of the trees near the Japanese Pagoda.

Early Bloomers

There are several varieties of cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin area. The most famous and numerous are the Yoshinos, but there are a few varieties that bloom just a little ahead of them such as Weeping, Afterglow, and Okama cherry trees.

Here are some examples from this morning.

An early bloomer in front of the FDR Memorial.

Weeping Cherry Blossoms on the banks of the Potomac along Ohio Drive.

Weeping Cherry Blossoms on the banks of the Potomac along Ohio Drive.

Weeping Cherry Blossoms on the banks of the Potomac along Ohio Drive.

An early bloomer in front of the FDR Memorial.

An early bloomer in front of the FDR Memorial.

Weeping Cherry Blossoms on the banks of the Potomac along Ohio Drive.

And to give a sense of progression, here's a specific cluster of flowers on a tree near the FDR Memorial that I've shot several times recently. I'll aim to follow these particular flowers in the coming days.

March 26, 2018.

March 23, 2018.

March 21, 2018.

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.

Cherry Blossom Photo Tours

Walking photo tours can be a great way to learn some new photography skills with the help of experts. And photo tours for the cherry blossoms can take advantage of expert local knowledge to know where to be when to get the best light and vantage points.

If you're looking to do a photo tour while you're visiting, there are a few options. The best place to start is with Washington Photo Safari, but there are also some other options, which you can find on the DC photo tours page.

Most of these tours are limited to small groups, so it's a good idea to book well in advance if you can. Of course, that also means rolling the dice in terms of when the cherry blossoms will be in bloom.

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 26, 2018 8:05 pm

View Comments

  • Will it be the precise weekend on April 14th and 15th to be there around Tidal Basin or it will be too late to see the Yoshinos?

    • If peak bloom ends up happening around April 12 (end of the current predicted range) then you'll be in good shape to see plenty of flowers. If it falls at the beginning of the range (April 8) there's some risk that many of them might be gone. Of course, it might end up falling outside the predicted range, as well. You can get an idea of what to expect in the days after peak bloom here.

    • There's not much to see yet, but there is a small number of trees starting to show flowers. Most are still in bud stages. I'll have updates later in the week with some tips on where to go looking for flowers that are out.

  • I am planning to take my family to there next week, but it seem like to early to see the cherry blossoms. So sad:(

  • Hi, I have planned to visit DC with my family for cherry blossom tomorrow (03/31), do you recommend to move my trip by one week or two weeks ?

    • There'll be many more flowers out next weekend (7-8) than this weekend. Right now, the weekend after that is looking a little riskier, but it all depends on how much the cooler weather coming this week will slow things down.

  • We are coming to Washington DC May 21-25 will there be any of the cherry blossoms to see at all. Many years ago I was there with Caney, Ok public school and it was the end of May when we came and the blossoms were beautiful.

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