After months of dreary snow and ice, the nation’s capital comes alive with color when its thousands of cherry trees bloom each spring.
The annual spectacle of dainty, light pink flowers attracts travelers from all over the world. But timing your visit to line up perfectly with the bloom is always tricky, as it can vary from year to year because of the weather.
Now, however, we have some answers: The National Park Service says the trees will reach peak bloom from March 22 to March 25. If you’re hoping to see these beautiful blossoms for yourself, these are the dates to plan your trip around.
“Peak bloom” refers to when at least 70% of the Yoshino cherry trees’ blossoms have opened. Of course, the trees start blooming before this peak period — and continue afterward — so even if you can’t make it over those exact dates, you’ll likely still see some good color. Last year, the trees reached peak bloom on March 21; the year before, on March 28. But in some years, they haven’t reached peak bloom until nearly mid-April.
Each tree typically blooms for several days, though calm, cool weather can extend this period. (Unfortunately, windy and rainy conditions can also put an abrupt end to the blossoms — so fingers crossed for mild conditions.)
How does the park service know exactly when the trees will bloom? The agency employs a group of expert horticulturalists — collectively called the “Tree Crew” — who monitor the trees for signs that blossoms may soon appear. The trees go through several distinct phases on their way to blooming, starting with green buds that turn into florets. Next, these florets extended out farther and farther from the branch. Eventually, small, puffy blossoms begin to emerge, then open into full flowers.
There are roughly 3,800 cherry trees throughout the Tidal Basin, the 107-acre man-made reservoir next to the National Mall. These beloved trees date back to 1912, when the people of Japan gave them as a gift of friendship to the United States.
The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, which this year will take place from March 20 to April 16, commemorates the anniversary of this gift. Festivities include a Japanese lantern-lighting ceremony, live music, educational programs, ranger talks, art installations and a parade, to name a few.
Can’t make it to D.C. this year? You can still soak up the beauty of this springtime tradition from home by tuning into the Trust for the National Mall’s “#BloomCam” live stream. The park service also offers several ways to participate virtually.