Turns out, DC is not the cherry blossom capital of the US

lane of cherry blossoms with fountain at the end
International Cherry Blossom Festival

Everyone has heard of the cherry blossom festival in Washington, D.C., when the tidal basin is surrounded every spring by beautiful pink and white blooms. But it turns out there’s one city in the U.S. with enough cherry blossom trees to dwarf D.C.’s count: Macon, Georgia.

Yes it’s true, the city of Macon (population 157,346) is also home to more than 350,000 cherry trees — more than 90 times the number of cherry trees in D.C., which has 3,800 cherry trees surrounding the tidal basin, according to the National Park Service.

The abundance of blossoms makes for a pretty spectacular spring, and every year the city hosts the International Cherry Blossom Festival. This year’s festival runs from March 14-24. Can’t make it in-person? Watch the spectacular blossoms via the festival’s BloomCam.

International Cherry Blossom Festival

While D.C.’s famous blossoms were a diplomatic gift from Japan, Macon’s were shared freely by a local resident.

MORE: Japan is gifting Washington with 250 new cherry trees

William A. Fickling Sr., a realtor in Macon, discovered the first Yoshino cherry tree in Macon in 1949 while strolling through his backyard. At the time, he didn’t know what kind of tree it was (or how rare it was in the American South), but during a business trip to Washington, D.C. in 1952, Fickling saw the Yoshino cherry blossom trees all over the nation’s capital and suspected the tree in his backyard could be the same. He returned to D.C. with a cutting from his tree, compared it to those surrounding the tidal basin, and discovered a perfect match. Back home in Macon, he learned how to propagate the Yoshino cherry blossom trees and started sharing them widely with the whole community.

MORE: Chocolate Cherry Blossom Cookies Couldn’t Be Any Cuter

With the help of Macon resident Carolyn Crayton, a community effort to plant 500 cherry blossom trees took place in 1973 and the numbers have grown from there. In 1982, the city launched the International Cherry Blossom Festival, which has now grown from a three-day festival with 30 events to a month-long celebration featuring hundreds of events, according to the official website.

cherry blossoms and string lights along a path
International Cherry Blossom Festival

The Fickling Family Foundation, named of course for the man who started it all, is keeping Macon’s “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World” title secure. Every year, the foundation donates thousands of Yoshino trees to city residents, meaning the beautiful blossoms will only continue to multiply.

MORE: The best places in the U.S. for seeing cherry blossoms in bloom

Science & Nature, Travel
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Taylor Kuether
Taylor Kuether is an award-winning journalist with more than 12 years’ experience writing and editing content, designing and implementing digital strategy, leading teams and executing production. She's written for The Washington Post, National Geographic, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times and more. Visit Scripps News to see more of Taylor's work.

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