Cherry Blossoms In DC? We Have Our Fingers Crossed!

Oh, yes! We have our fingers crossed!! It‘s a waiting game each year as to when the approximately 3,800 cherished cherry trees in DC ‘s Tidal Basin area will finally grace the city with their lovely, fluffy blossoms. But this year the anticipation is worse than usual! The weather has not been our friend. First, there was a string of delightful, unusually warm early March days when the tender cherry tree buds began to swell and threaten to burst open. Then there was snow! That’s right, snow! Poof buds!

So now what?  When will DC have cherry blossoms? Will DC have cherry blossoms this year?

To help calm any mounting anxiety you might have about this, below is a comparative record from the official Cherry Blossom Festival website that describes past bud development. As you’re strolling the Tidal Basin, among the treasured trees, this comparison might come in handy for helping you predict this year’s cherry blossom debut:

            (The date listed is when 70 percent of the buds have reached each stage)

1    Green Color in Buds: Mid to late February – Early March

2    Florets Visible: Early to Mid March, Av. 16-21 days to Peak Bloom

3    Extension of Florets: Av. 12-17 days to Peak Bloom

4    Peduncle Elongation: Av. 5-10 days to Peak Bloom (Frost Critical)

5. Puffy White: Av. 4-6 days to Peak Bloom

Visit for a visual comparison of these 5 stages. You can also access the Cherry Blossom Cam from this site.

If you have specific cherry blossom tree questions or questions about National Park Service property, send an e-mail to the National Capital Region Public Affairs Office or call (202) 619-7222.

Additional Sites Related to DC’s Cherry Blossoms:

Do You Know the History of Cherry Blossoms in Our Nation’s Capital City?

We have Mrs. Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, Dr. David Fairchild, First Lady Helen Taft and Mr. Midzuno, the Japanese consul in New York in 1909 to thank for the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC . Here’s how the story goes:

In the late 1800’s Mrs Scidmore, a resident of Washington, DC, fell in love with the gorgeous cherry blossoms she observed on a visit to Japan. When she returned from her trip she approached the U.S. Army Superintendent of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds in DC and suggested that the US government plant these lovely trees along the Potomac River. Unfortunately, her efforts saw no results even after she approached different superintendents over many years.

In the early 1900’s Dr. Fairchild, an employee at the US Department of Agriculture, imported about 100 cherry trees from Japan and planted them on his own property in nearby Chevy Chase, Maryland to test their hardiness in the Washington climate. After experiencing success with the trees --- they lived! --- Dr. Fairchild gave cherry tree saplings to children from each District of Columbia school to plant in their schoolyard for the observance of Arbor Day. He went on to suggest that similar trees be planted around what is today the Tidal Basin. Mrs. Scidmore was in attendance at the Arbor Day event when Dr. Fairchild made this suggestion.

Immediately, Mrs Scidmore decided to try to raise the money needed to make the planning of cherry trees around the Tidal Basin happen. First Lady, Helen Taft had lived in Japan and was also fond of the cherry blossoms, so Mrs. Scidmore wrote her of the plan to raise the money for this. Within two days the First Lady responded with the following letter:

 First Lady Helen Taft    Courtesy of the National Arboretum                      

 First Lady Helen Taft   
Courtesy of the National Arboretum                      

Mrs. Eliza Scidmore Courtesy Washingtonian Division , DC Public Library

Mrs. Eliza Scidmore
Courtesy Washingtonian Division , DC Public Library

April 7, 1909

Thank you very much for your suggestion about the cherry trees. I have taken the matter up and am promised the trees, but I thought perhaps it would be best to make an avenue of them, extending down to the turn in the road, as the other part is still too rough to do any planting. Of course, they could not reflect in the water, but the effect would be very lovely of the long avenue. Let me know what you think about this.

Sincerely yours,

Helen H. Taft

Enter Mr. Midzuno, Japanese consul in New York. Mr. Midzuno was in Washington at the time and heard of Mrs Scidmore’s request and First Lady Helen Taft’s interest. He then asked if Mrs. Taft would accept a donation of an additional two thousand trees to fill out the area. First Lady Taft agreed and the trees were given to Washington, DC in the name of the City of Tokyo.

Mrs. Scidmore was there when Mrs. Taft planted the first cherry trees.