Cherry Blossom Watch Update: February 20, 2017

It certainly feels like spring, with warm temperatures and clear skies. And it's starting to look like spring too, with the first daffodils starting to come out and the first green buds appearing on the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin.

It certainly feels like spring. It’s been pretty spectacular weather for President’s Day Weekend, and a lot of people are out and about enjoying it around the Tidal Basin and National Mall. It’s also starting to look like spring–the first daffodils are starting to come out. And it’s not just a blip–plenty more days in the 60s and 70s are expected in the coming weeks.

While the vast majority of trees haven’t yet reached the green bud stage (the first stage tracked by the National Park Service in the blooming process), the indicator tree has started showing green buds. It’s typically a week to ten days ahead of the others. With the warm weather expected over the next week, it shouldn’t be long before the others join it. If so, it would be relatively early, but not unheard-of early. The NPS judged that in 2008 (when the peak bloom was March 26) 70 percent of the trees had reached the green buds stage on February 19.

With all this warm weather we’ve had so far and are expected to have in coming weeks, odds are looking pretty good for an early bloom in mid- to late-March. Of course, it’s never a sure thing; it’s still possible for things to slow down if March turns very cold, but so far there’s not much in the forecasts to suggest that there’s much risk of that. As an example, this map from the National Weather Service is pretty telling–it maps the likelihood of above-average temperatures (orange and red) and below-average temperatures (blue) for the first week of March.


Temperatures might drop back a bit closer to normal after that, and it’ll be interesting to see if that colder pattern that’s currently out west will make it’s way across to this coast, but so far it hasn’t been making much of a dent. (Apparently the summit at Tahoe has had an impressive 36 feet of snow so far this season.) As you can see from this table, it has been consistently warmer than normal over in these parts through the winter.

DecemberJanuaryFebruaryMarchPeak Bloom Date
2019-20+2.4+6.4+4.8+7.3*March 20
2018-19+3.8+1.2+3.2+0.0April 1
2017-18-0.5-0.3+6.3-3.2April 5
2016-17+2.1+6.1+8.7-0.7*March 25
2015-16+11.5-1.1+0.9+6.5*March 25
2014-15+4.0-0.4-8.7-1.5April 10
2013-14+2.6-3.8-1.2-3.9April 10
2012-13+5.9+4.3-0.7-3.0April 9
2011-12+4.9+4.7+5.3+10March 20
2010-11--1.3+3.6-0.9March 29
Data sources: National Weather Service / National Park Service.
ˤ = partial month, in progress
* = up until peak bloom

The National Park Service hasn’t issued their first peak bloom forecast for the season. They typically do that in early March. As always, you can find the latest forecasts on the peak bloom forecasts page.

Indicator Tree

This tree, known as the “indicator tree,” is consistently a week to ten days ahead of the others. As you can see, the green buds are coming through. I have more on the indicator tree here.

The indicator tree is the large one on the left with the branches stretching over the walkway.

Unfortunately, its branches are high up, making it a challenge to get good close-ups, but you can clearly see the green buds coming through.

Elsewhere Around the Tidal Basin

This is more typical of the progress of the vast majority of trees around the Tidal Basin


Some of the daffodils have just started coming out. I took these this morning next to the LBJ Memorial, just across the Potomac on the GW Parkway.

Early Spring Flowers

The flowering trees I wrote about last week, next to the World War I Memorial, are still blooming.

Unfortunately, the trees aren’t the most photogenic in terms of being a backdrop for portraits, but if you’re looking for them, I have information on how to find them here.

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

In the past few winters the Reflecting Pool has been drained for one reason or another. But it hasn’t been drained this year, so if you’re hoping to get some nice reflection photos you’re in luck.

The water has been drained from the fountains at the World War II Memorial and the FDR Memorial.

Last updated February 20, 2017

View Comments

    • Under normal circumstances I'd say that the later one would be better, but the temperatures have been so abnormal that anything seems possible right now. Especially since the first flowers are now coming out on the indicator tree. The NPS will issue their first peak bloom prediction on Wednesday, which will be the best indication we have yet. In the meantime, the update I've just posted today might help.

    • It's impossible to say definitively this far out, but all the signs we have right now point to an early bloom toward the end of March (the historical average is April 3). If that's how it pans out, the blossoms will be well on their way out by April 8, although it's possible there might still be some flowers on the trees. There's another variety of cherry blossoms, the Kwanzans, that bloom around a couple of weeks after the main ones. They're also very pretty, and I have detailed information on them here. The National Park Service and Washington Post Capital Weather Gang will probably issue their forecasts in the coming fortnight or so, and they should offer a good reference point. And this post gives an idea of what you can expect, when.