How to Find the Indicator Tree

The so-called indicator tree reliably blooms a week to ten days ahead of most of the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin. Here’s how to find it.

Photo of Washington DC Cherry Blossoms.
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2023 Peak Bloom

The NPS judged that the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin reached peak bloom on March 23, 2023.

Not every Yoshino cherry tree around the Tidal Basin is on the same schedule. Some can be a day or two ahead or behind others. But there's one Yoshino cherry tree that's consistently a week to ten days (or sometimes longer) 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 soon. It's not the most majestic or picturesque 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.

It's also one of the key pieces of the puzzle that the National Park Service horticulturists use in making their peak bloom predictions.

Photo of Cherry Blossom Indicator Tree - April 2, 2015 taken by David Coleman.

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.

Cherry Blossoms - April 6, 2015

It's located just east of the Jefferson Memorial. This area of the Tidal Basin used to be a swimming beach, but it looks much less inviting for a dip now. 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 toward 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.

cherry blossom indicator tree-03

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.

cherry blossom indicator tree-01
cherry blossom indicator tree-02
cherry blossom indicator tree-04
Indicator Tree tag number
The tree ID tag on the southern side of the tree. (This tag has since been removed.)


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 historic National Mall area. I'm not affiliated with the Trust--just an admirer of their efforts.

17 thoughts on “How to Find the Indicator Tree”

    • No, it wasn’t. There’s nothing particularly historically significant about it. It’s just that it reliably blooms ahead of the others, so it serves as a good advance beacon of when the others might be ready to bloom. Just one of those botanical quirks, but a useful one if you’re trying to figure out when the cherry blossoms will be on full display.

  1. Your site continues to be the best source of information not only on the cherry blossoms but also on many other aspects of Photography. Keep up the great work and many thanks to you

  2. Going to DC next Friday for my husband’s birthday and wanted to know how far along the indicator tree is. Any idea? Thanks!

  3. I visited on 1st March , it seems silence but the florets are visible at different stages . Although this week is cooler , the next is pretty worm , I feel this season the record of March 15 of 1990 may be broken , let us watch and see.
    On 4th I will like to se the indicator.

      • Ok thanks! I see you post regarding the prediction from both NPS and Washington Post. Which one do you think is more realistic based on your experience and research? 🙂 I’m planning to come down and wanted to know which weekend to book my tickets for 🙂

        • They both have a pretty good track record, but based on what I’m seeing down there in recent days it looks like the revised NPS one might be the better bet this year.

  4. With the temps forecasted over the East this week and next week, I have a strong feeling that the peak bloom date will be moved up quite a bit! We already have Japanese plum trees and Magnolias beginning to bloom in SE KY!


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