It's still too early to pin down 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.
It has been a much warmer-than-normal winter so far. And there's not much in the available forecasts to suggest that that pattern is likely to change as we get into March. So all indications at this point suggest an early bloom. That said, we're dealing with the weather, and if we get a sustained cold spell in March, it can slow things down considerably.
Many of the cherry trees are in the puffy white stage now, and you can clearly see the white petals coming through. And more trees have at least a few flowers opening on them now, although it’s still only a tiny portion of the flowers that will be coming out over the next several days.
More and more flowers will come out each day into the middle of next week. With the cooler temperatures right now, it’s still a slow and steady pace, but as it warms up as we head into the weekend things will pick up. And that’s why the NPS yesterday moved up their peak bloom forecast slightly to April 1.
So the cherry blossoms should be looking lovely this weekend even if they haven’t quite hit peak bloom yet. And if you have the opportunity to go down midweek next week, they’ll be beautiful and you’ll avoid some of the crowds.
Photos and more details below.
How It’s Looking Today at the Tidal Basin
It’s a very pretty, sunny, and cool morning.
Prospects for the Weekend of April 6-7
But obviously not everyone can go during the work week, so I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the weekend of April 6-7.
The odds are good that there will still be plenty of flowers out and they’ll be looking lovely. But it’s never a sure thing because so much of it depends on the weather.
In ideal conditions (cool, calm, dry), they can last more than a week–perhaps even two. But as they move past full bloom the flowers also become more fragile, which makes them more vulnerable to rain, wind, and storms, and it’s not unheard of for them to be mostly gone in 4-6 days after the peak bloom day.
I know that this isn’t as firm an answer as you’d like, but here’s a quick example to explain the hedging. These these photos were taken at 5 days after peak bloom. The first two were in 2018:
These second two were taken 5 days after the peak bloom in 2014:
For more detailed examples, I’ve put together this photo timeline from past years showing the types of things you can expect in the days before and after peak bloom.
So there’s a good chance they’ll still be looking lovely the weekend of April 6-7, but as you can see from these photos, it’s impossible to give a firm prediction, and it’s worth going into it at least knowing of the risk that unhelpful weather can potentially have an impact.
Where You Can Find Cherry Blossoms Flowering 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. As you walk around the Tidal Basin it’s easy to come across scattered flowers opening up, but it’s still only a tiny portion of what will be opening in the coming several days.
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 in full bloom now. Unfortunately, it’s not the prettiest tree and its few remaining branches are high up, making it hard to get good photos, but you can see some photos of it from two days ago here. I also have detailed 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 there are several weeping cherries which are blooming quite fully now. Here are some shots of some of those taken this morning.
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 Tidal Basin’s parking lot by the paddle boats is now closed for the Cherry Blossom Festival Welcome Area.
Ohio Drive still has its regular traffic pattern. The roadwork that they were doing behind the John Ericsson Memorial at the Lincoln Memorial end is complete and you can use the usual entrance to Ohio Drive. They haven’t implemented the special one-way restrictions yet, but I would expect them to be in place this coming weekend.
Very pretty sunrises at this time of year, especially with the east-west layout of the National Mall. I took these this morning.
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.