Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 16, 2017

Where there should be white and pink there's now a lot of brown. Many of the ones that were in the late stages right before fully blooming have been damaged badly. But it's by no means all of them.

It’s a crisp, sparkling morning at the Tidal Basin after another cold night. And that cold is taking a real toll on the cherry blossoms now.

Where there should be white and pink there’s now a lot of brown. Many of the ones that were in the late stages right before fully blooming have been damaged badly. They’re now hanging limp, looking as though they’ve been singed by fire.

But it’s by no means all of the trees. From outward appearances, at least, it looks like some might make it through. But there’s still at least one more cold night in store before temperatures begin to moderate.

All along, there’s been an unusually wide spread of development stages, with some trees well ahead of others. The ones that were ahead were the most vulnerable, and many have succumbed. But many trees have also been lagging behind, and because they’ve been in earlier stages they’ve been less vulnerable. The NPS horticulturists took some clippings from those trees yesterday and are putting them under heat lamps to try to make them bloom to see if there’s any internal damage we can’t see.

I don’t know what percentage to put on it–I’ll leave that to the experts at the NPS–but there should be at least some flowers left to bloom later this week and into next week.

The NPS said yesterday that they still expect that whatever blossoms make it through the cold to reach peak bloom during their revised prediction window of March 19 to 22. But it’s safe to say it’s not going to be the dramatic, full-throated bloom that they cherry blossoms are famous for. It’s going to be a much reduced bloom this year.

I’ve included quite a few photos below of the various stages to illustrate what I mean.

Kwanzan Cherry Blossoms

Several people have asked about the Kwanzan cherry blossoms. They bloom a bit later than the more famous Yoshinos.

The short version is that they’re fine. They much earlier in their development and better protected from the biting.

I’ve posted a more detailed update on them separately, along with some new photos taken this morning.

Where things stand

Will the peak bloom be delayed further?

This is what the NPS said about this yesterday:

With temperatures moderating after the current cold snap, peak bloom of the Yoshino variety of cherry trees is still expected to occur within the projected March 19-22 window. However, the number of cherry trees that reach the blossom stage may be reduced as a result of the recent cold temperatures.

What can I expect to see this weekend?

The answer to this begins the same way: we don’t know how many will be able to ride out the cold temperatures of the next couple of nights.

For those that do ride it out–and that will almost certainly be at least some and might even be most of them–they’ll start kicking things up a notch again once they get some warmth.

So there should be some flowers to see, although it’s going to be a reduced bloom this year.

Cherry Blossom Watch Instagram Feed

I’ve started a new Cherry Blossom Watch Instagram account. I’ll often be able to post short updates there more quickly than on the website, so if you want to get a jump on the very latest updates, be sure to check it out.

You can follow it at @cherryblossomwatch.

For Photographers

Sunrise tomorrow at the Tidal Basin is at 7:15AM and sunset at 7:17PM.

The spring equinox is in a few days, which means that the sunrise and sunset is currently lining up along the National Mall (which is laid out East-West).


Maine Ave SW Parking Lot

It’s closed for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. They’ve started setting up temporary tents and facilities for the Welcome Center due to open on March 15.

Traffic Restrictions on Ohio Drive

The temporary traffic restrictions are now in place. Ohio Drive SW is now one-way, and the entrance to it from the Lincoln Memorial end is closed. To get to it you have to enter via Maine Ave SW and go around the Jefferson Memorial.

Photos from this Morning

If you head down today, this is the kind of thing you can expect to see. These were all taken this morning.

This is one of two times of year, around the equinox, when the sun rises directly in the east. Because of the way the National Mall is laid out, on a clear morning the sun shines briefly directly on the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial–normally he’s in deep shadow.

The blossoms on this tree haven’t survived the cold.

This was one of the early bloomers. It’s the same cluster of flowers I’ve been taking a photo of for the past week or so. You can see the previous ones in yesterday’s update.

No, this isn’t allowed. No, it’s not me (nor do I know who it was). No, I don’t recommend trying it.

If you go down to the Tidal Basin today, mind the walkway. It looks like soft snow, but it’s rock-hard and very slick ice.

The NPS turned on most of the water features in the FDR Memorial last week, which is probably not an example of great timing.

An example of some lagging well behind.

These are at an earlier stage and have been less vulnerable.

Last updated March 16, 2017

View Comments

  • Hi,

    I was hoping to travel from NY to DC on March 25th as a first trip to see the Cherry Blossoms.
    Based on the current weather situation, do you think there will be much cherry blossoms to see?
    I've been waiting to make my reservations.

    • I've just posted an update with some new photos from this morning that give some sense of how things currently stand. I do expect some to bloom, but it's unlikely to be a picture-postcard year for it.

  • Thanks for updating this every day! Hopefully, I can still see some blossom during the next weekend when I am there.

  • Fantastic information and pictures. Thanks for taking the time to capture and share this with the community.

  • Thank you for the daily updates! Though I live in DC, the Tidal Basin is still a big commute away, so I enjoy following along on the blog :)

  • Beautiful photos! The water look so soft and still like a painting. I love the cherry blossoms here, though I'm so ready to go back to Japan hopefully during cherry blossom season there. Looks magical!

  • Thank you for your day to day service in updating us on the progression of the somewhat subdued yoshino cherry blossom. Hope they come to life in the coming days. All I want to photograph is some groves of cherry blossom at peak bloom. :)

    • Glad it's useful. If you live locally, I highly recommend the Kwanzan cherry blossoms too when they come out in early to mid-April.

  • Very helpful, David, thanks so much for doing this every day, a great service to photographers