Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 29, 2019

The cherry blossoms are really starting to come along now. They're not in full bloom yet, but many trees are starting to flower. Warm temperatures today and tomorrow will make them pop.

Washington DC's cherry blossoms reached peak bloom on April 1, 2019. They're now done for the year.

You can find some ideas for other things to see and do in DC here.

The cherry blossoms are really starting to come along now. They’re not in full bloom yet, but many trees are starting to flower. Warm temperatures today and tomorrow will make them pop.

UPDATE: The NPS judged that the trees had reached the puffy white stage today. That’s the last stage before peak bloom.

More details and photos from this morning below.

How It’s Looking at the Tidal Basin This Morning

This Weekend or Next Weekend?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions on which weekend would be better if you had to choose one. I wish I had a clear, definitive answer, but it’s not quite that easy.

Here’s why . . .

This weekend (March 30-31) has the virtue of being a safe bet. Even if they haven’t quite hit peak bloom yet, you can be very confident of seeing plenty of beautiful flowers.

It’s entirely possible that they’ll be looking even more beautiful the following weekend (April 6-7), as more flowers have the chance to come out and they start shifting pink. The catch is that there is at least some risk of rain/wind interfering. For some examples of the practical ramifications of that, take a look at the photos in the next section about the weekend of April 6-7.

Prospects for the Weekend of April 6-7

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 photos were taken at 5 days after peak bloom. The first two were in 2018:

+5 days in 2018.

+5 days in 2018.

These second two were taken 5 days after the peak bloom in 2014:

+5 days in 2014.

+5 days 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.

Cherry Blossom 10-Miler

One extra consideration for April 7 is that the Cherry Blossom 10-miler is being run that morning. You can still get to the Tidal Basin, but it makes the logistics of getting to and from more complicated because of the road closures that come with it.

You can find more information here.

Where You Can Find Cherry Blossoms Flowering Now

Now that many of the trees are flowering and they’re easy to find all the way around the Tidal Basin and surrounding area, this section isn’t especially relevant anymore, but I’ll leave it here for today in case anyone is looking for some of the trees that are marching ahead of the others and have more blossoms open on them.

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’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 in full bloom now.

Early Bloomer

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.

March 29, 2019.

March 28, 2019.

March 27, 2019.

March 25, 2019.

March 23, 2019.

March 19, 2019.

March 17, 2019.

Logistics

The Tidal Basin’s parking lot by the paddle boats is now closed for the Cherry Blossom Festival Welcome Area.

Ohio Drive has been switched to the special one-way traffic pattern. But it’s poorly signed, with unmarked barricades across the entrance down by the John Ericsson Memorial (Lincoln Memorial end) but no other signs. So some cars are trying to turn in anyway and going the wrong way down the street. You can still get to Ohio Drive, but you’ll have to go around the other side of the Tidal Basin, past the paddle boats, and enter by the Jefferson Memorial.

If you’re coming in from the Arlington side of the Potomac, be aware Memorial Bridge is undergoing major structural repairs. It is still open, but there are temporary traffic lanes that can impact traffic flow and where you can turn once you get off the bridge. So using one of the other bridges might be a better bet.

For Photographers

No Drone Zone. If you’re planning to use a drone . . . don’t. The Tidal Basin, and the whole downtown DC area, is strictly a no-drone zone. Here’s a more detailed explanation.

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 31, 2019

View Comments

  • Thank you so much for the updates. I read them a lot and it’s really helpful for me to decide which day is best for me to go see the cherry blossoms.

    By the way, what I observed from my visit to the cherry blossoms on 30 March was spot on with what you said in the updates and in the photo timeline, though I did not expect as big of a crowd during that particular weekend compared to that of the upcoming weekend because it was 2 days before peak bloom. I also observed that the cherry blossoms are usually crowded starting around 11am (morning seemed to be fine when I went, and 9-10:45am in morning is okay).

  • I was reading through your stuff the other day and you had mentioned a tree near an memorial but not a cherry tree. I was looking for the type of tree and its location so i could possibly go see it as well. Believe u said it was a tulip or magnolia type tree possibly near fdr memorial. I hope you can help me out and point me in the direction of this tree. I remember you possibly saying it had spiral like or ball like flowers or blooms. Thanks for your help have a great day.

    • The spiral makes me think you might be talking about the Kwanzan cherry blossoms. I have information on them here. I also often mention the saucer magnolias. There are several by the George Mason Memorial, and an even more impressive collection of them behind the Smithsonian Castle.

  • Fantastic page and information! Would like your thoughts: As I am in Baltimore County and a short drive from DC, I have a somewhat flexible schedule;
    1. Visit today- mostly cloudy, but warm and not at peak bloom, or
    2. Visit Wednesday- sunny and perhaps at peak bloom
    I wish all of my dilemas were of this nature!
    Thanks

    • They are looking lovely today, and the sun has come out. But so have the crowds. Wednesday they should be looking even fuller and there will be fewer people. If I was making the choice, I'd go with Wednesday. I'll be posting an update shortly with some photos from this morning. That said, there's really no wrong choice.

  • I am driving from Indiana. I planned to arrive in Alexandria Monday evening. I see it may rain Tues. Should that be a concern as far as rain or wind? Should I leave a Day earlier, or would the blossoms still be strong enough to stay on a few days? I have never seen the trees in bloom and do not want to miss them. I am staying most of the week.

    • They're generally hardy enough to withstand rain at that point. It's typically a few days after they've peaked that they start becoming fragile.

  • Interested how long it takes to the walk around the tidal basin. and is it far walk from the National mall and the museums?

    • It's immediately adjacent to the National Mall. About 5 mins from the National World War II Memorial or the Lincoln Memorial. It's about 1.8 miles around the perimeter of the Tidal Basin. There are many more cherry trees around the island all the way up around Hains Point, but the most famous ones are the one around the Tidal Basin. More info in the "By Walking" section here, and some info on the monuments and memorials you'll come across as you wander around the Tidal Basin here.

  • We plan to visit from NY on Wed April 3. One member of group has short term walking restriction due to wearing ankle protection boots. Any sussestion how to plan drive with Handicap Parking Tag?
    Thanks for the great work.

    • Some info under the "Accessibility" section here. There are some designated handicap tag areas. It's certainly possible for them to fill up too (but that will be less of an issue on a Wednesday than the weekend), in which case there are a few good dropoff points that don't involve steps.

  • Thanks for the heads up about the April 7 run. Because of it, I plan to skip that day and come an extra day during the week before to avoid the traffic, closed streets, parking problems, etc.

    Love your updates. I booked my trip to DC based on them.

  • Thanks so much for the detailed updates every single day, year after year, David! I can't tell you how much they've helped us in planning our D.C. trips over the years!

  • Thank you so much for today's update. We'll be in DC starting next Wednesday and will be watching your updates like a hawk. Will be interesting to see when the NPS announces the "puffy white" stage, as based on your photos, looks like it could be very soon.

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