Every year in early spring, the 1,678 Japanese Yoshino cherry blossom trees ringing Washington’s Tidal Basin and surrounding area near the Jefferson Memorial and FDR Memorial burst into bloom with their white and pink flowers. They’re joined by another 2,000 or so elsewhere around the National Mall.
Of the 3,770 cherry trees, the Yoshinos are the most famous, but there are actually several different varieties of cherry blossoms in and near the National Mall. Kwanzan cherry trees are mostly in East Potomac Park that come into bloom about a fortnight later. Weeping Japanese Cherry trees (or Higan Cherry) get about a one week headstart on the Yoshinos. And there are also Uussuzumi Cherry, Sargent Cherry, and Snow Goose varieties.1
The annual event provides the occasion for Washington DC’s two-week National Cherry Blossom Festival, which brings bus loads of tourists into town (and about $150 million in tourist dollars) and makes for a spectacular kickoff to Washington’s tourist season.2
It was a century ago this year that Japan gave Washington 3,200 cherry blossom trees. A few dozen of the trees still survive from that original planting, gnarled and knotted and mostly clustered down towards the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.3
The whole phenomenon really is quite beautiful, although with the peak blooming only lasting a few days and varying slightly each year depending on the local weather conditions, timing is everything. The color of the blossoms changes from pink, when young, to puffy white, when mature. So if you prefer pink blooms, come at the beginning. If you prefer white blooms, come towards the end. And if you can’t stand crowds, good luck! The actual blooming only lasts a matter of days, but other events are planned around the city as part of the festival, including a Cherry Blossom Parade and fireworks.
When Will Washington DC’s Cherry Blossoms Reach Peak Bloom in 2014?
Head on over to the special section of the site dedicated to Washington DC’s cherry blossoms.