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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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