Not every tree is on exactly the same schedule. Some can be a day or two ahead or behind others. But there's one tree that's consistently a week to ten days ahead of most of the others around the Tidal Basin.
Because of this distinctive trait, it has become known as the indicator tree, and it's used to get an idea of where the other trees will be in a week to ten days. It's also one of the key pieces of the puzzle that the National Park Service horticulturalists use in making their peak bloom predictions.
So if you're here a little ahead of the peak bloom but still want to see some blossoms, it's a good place to look.
There's no sign, though, and unless it happens to be covered in flowers while everything around it isn't, you really have to know where it is.
So here's how to find it.
It's located just east of the Jefferson Memorial. You can get to it easily from either the Jefferson Memorial or from the other direction from Ohio Drive SW.
This first shot is taken from the end of the bridge on Ohio Drive SW looking southwest towards the Jefferson Memorial (you can see the top of the dome in the background). The walkway splits into three, with one path to the left going alongside the road and another path to the right heading towards the water of the Tidal Basin.
The indicator tree is between the two paths to the right. It's the first old-looking tree you come across and is standing right next to a large holly tree. It's not the most majestic of the old trees, and it's had some amputations over the years. But for whatever reason, we can count on this particular tree to provide advance warning.
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.
Cherry Blossom Visitor Guides
Planning on visiting DC to see the cherry blossoms? The uncertainty with predicting when the bloom will take place certainly makes things hard, but I've put together some information to help you make an educated guess to maximize your chances.
And if you're coming into town for the events of the cherry blossom festival or just for the flowers, I've also put together some ideas on where to stay and how to get to the cherry blossoms once you're here.
Washington DC Visitor Guides
If you're coming in from out of town, here are some useful travel guidebooks that can help you make the most of your visit. Because as stunning as the cherry blossoms are, there's an awful lot more to do and see in DC.
These are some of the most popular ones. Many of these are available as both traditional books and e-books that you can read on your phone or tablet.
- Elise Hartman Ford
- Publisher: FrommerMedia
- Fodor s Washington D C with Mount Vernon Alexandria Annapolis Full color Travel Guide
- Fodor's Travel Guides
- DK Travel
- Publisher: DK Eyewitness Travel
- Lonely Planet Washington DC
- Lonely Planet, Karla Zimmerman, Regis St Louis
And here are some interesting options for less traditional guidesbooks if you'd like an emphasis on exploring DC on foot or diving into some of the region's very rich history.