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Washington, DC’s Cherry Trees - Frequently Asked Questions

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When do the cherry blossoms bloom and when do they reach their peak?

The date when the Yoshino cherry blossoms reach their peak bloom varies from year to year, depending on the weather. Unseasonably warm and/or cool temperatures have resulted in the trees reaching peak bloom as early as March 15 (1990) and as late as April 18 (1958). The blooming period can last up to 14 days. They are considered to be at their peak when 70 percent of the blossoms are open. The dates of the National Cherry Blossom Festival are set based on the average date of blooming, which is around April 4th. Each year, the chief horticulturist for the National Park Service forecasts the expected peak bloom dates. See the current year's estimated peak bloom dates.

How many cherry trees are there?

Approximately 3,750 cherry trees are on the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. Most of the trees are Yoshino Cherry. Other species include Kwanzan Cherry, Akebono Cherry, Takesimensis Cherry, Usuzumi Cherry, Weeping Japanese Cherry, Sargent Cherry, Autumn Flowering Cherry, Fugenzo Cherry, Afterglow Cherry, Shirofugen Cherry and Okame Cherry. See photos of the Cherry Trees

Where are the cherry trees located?

Washington, DC’s famed cherry trees grow in three park locations: around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, in East Potomac Park (Hains Point), and on the grounds of the Washington Monument. See a map.

Some cherry trees are also located in some quieter places around the region. For details, see a guide to Cherry Blossoms Off the Beaten Path Around Washington, DC.

What is the history of the cherry trees in Washington?

In 1912, the people of Japan sent 3,020 cherry trees to the United States as a gift of friendship. First Lady Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first two cherry trees on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin. These two original trees are still standing today near the John Paul Jones statue at the south end of 17th Street. Workmen planted the remainder of the trees around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park. Learn more about the history of the cherry blossoms here.

What is the history of the National Cherry Blossom Festival?

The following timeline was provided by Ann McClellan, author of The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration. Buy a Copy.

  • 1927 - School children re-enacted the original 1912 tree planting

  • 1934 - Festival had grown to 3 days

  • 1935 - First crowning of a Cherry Blossom Queen

  • 1942-1946 - Festival suspended during World War II, trees referred to as "Oriental Cherry Trees"

  • 1947 - First post-war festival, two days duration, record-breaking crowd of 450,000 attendees crammed the Tidal Basin.

  • 1948 - Cherry Blossom Queen chosen by chance through spin of "wheel of fortune" for the first time, still used today. National Conference of State Societies sponsors Cherry Blossom Princess and Queen program and related events.

  • 1954 - First Lantern Lighting, Lantern a gift from Japan to the U.S. to honor the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Yeddo.

  • 1957 - Mikimoto Company gave the Festival the Cherry Blossom Queen's crown with 1,585 pearls of varying sizes, scroll and leaf decorations in 14k gold, ermine around the base. It's very heavy and the Queen only wears it briefly - long enough to have her picture taken - and it has to be tied onto her head with strong ribbons. For other Festival activities she wears a tiny replica, which she gets to keep.

  • Early 1990's - The Cherry Blossom Festival became a two-week long celebration, as it is today. See a photo gallery of the National Cherry Blossom Festival
See also, 10 Things to Know About the Cherry Blossom Season in Washington DC

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