Things are about to get interesting.
In the past 24 hours, a few more trees have started popping their first flowers. It’s still a very small number in terms of the total number of trees, but if you go hunting for them you can find at least some cherry blossoms out now.
Overall, there continues to be an unusually wide spread of stages. Some are well ahead of others. The upshot is that we might end up with a particularly drawn-out, staggered bloom this year rather than a sudden, dramatic boom. That might end up being good news for those who can’t make it right around the technical peak bloom period.
The cherry blossoms are going to be negotiating a bit of a minefield over the coming week. They have a few warm days to coax some more flowers out, and then an arctic blast looms for the weekend for some real winter. It might snow, or it might not, but it’s almost certainly going to be very cold. And that has potential to complicate things.
Could the the coming cold weekend present a problem?
So the natural question is: Will snow or freezing temperatures affect the cherry blossoms?
It might. As with frost, in the right (or wrong, if you will) mix of circumstances, freezing temperatures can damage the flowers and buds or even halt the bloom. It hasn’t ever actually stopped Washington DC’s cherry blossoms from blooming since records started being kept in the 1920s, but it remains a real possibility.
If we do get frost and freezing, the effect that it has on the cherry blossoms depends on what stage they’re at. While they’re wrapped tight, it’s not much of an issue. As they get further along the stages before flowering they become more vulnerable to frost and freezing.
Hopefully, they won’t share the fate of the saucer magnolias last weekend. Pretty much overnight, they went from this:
The unusually broad spread of development stages might actually be a saving grace for at least some of the cherry blossoms. They’re vulnerable to freezing temperatures in some stages more than others.
Naturally, I’ll be watching it closely and posting updates.
New 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.
Road Closures Saturday
If you’re planning to visit the Tidal Basin on Saturday, you’ll likely have to deal with the road closures and traffic related to the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon. It’s not actually going by the Tidal Basin or around Hains Point, but there’s likely to be spillover effects, at least for the start.
You can find details of road closures here.
I’m coming on the weekend of March 25-26 (or April 1-2). Will I be able to see the cherry blossoms?
In a normal year, they’re gone by a week after the peak bloom date, often sooner. So if the peak bloom ends up falling in the predicted March 14-17 range, it would usually mean that there wouldn’t be much left to see by March 25. I’ve put together a photo timeline that gives a sense of what you might expect to see in the days after peak bloom.
But there’s something else unusual about this year aside from how early it is: because the trees are at such a broad range of a development stages we might end up seeing an unusually gradual and drawn-out bloom.
This doesn’t really fit the normal pattern, so it’s impossible to say with much confidence what’s going to happen, and while it’s still unlikely that there’ll be much left by March 25, it’s not impossible that there’ll still be some late stragglers still flowering.
The chances are much reduced for the weekend of April 1-2. But it’s possible the Kwanzan cherry blossoms might be starting to bloom by then. There are fewer of them, but they’re very pretty. I have more information on them and how to find them here.
Could frost or snow be a problem?
Perhaps. See above for a more detailed answer.
Where can I find cherry blossoms blooming now?
Around the Tidal Basin itself, only a handful of trees are currently blooming, but you can find some if you go hunting.
One is the indicator tree. I have directions on how to find it here. More photogenic is a large tree that’s over next to the FDR Memorial. You can’t miss it–it stands out (see the photo here). As of March 8, a few more trees scattered around the Tidal Basin have just started showing their first flowers. More will come out in the warm weather of the next few days.
There are also some cherry blossoms of a different variety blooming along the Potomac waterfront along Ohio Drive. With low, sweeping branches, they’re very good for posing next to for portraits. The densest cluster is on the Lincoln Memorial end, near the John Ericsson Memorial. There are some others scattered elsewhere, such as the intersection of West Basin Dr SW (the road that runs by the FDR Memorial and MLK Memorial) and Ohio Drive SW.
Maine Ave SW Parking Lot
Is still open normally for parking.
It will be closed next week to accommodate the National Cherry Blossom Festival Welcome Center.
Traffic Restrictions on Ohio Drive
There are no traffic restrictions in place along Ohio Drive yet. Traffic patterns and parking remain normal. And it’s still very quiet around the Tidal Basin, so finding a parking spot isn’t a problem.
Photos from this Morning
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.