Washington, DC: Big heat moves up bloom time for cherry trees
The landmark cherry trees lining the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., will be blooming before their namesake festival even begins this year. That’s the word from the National Park Service, which revised its forecast Thursday and now predicts the trees will begin to blossom Sunday and will peak between Tuesday and March 23.
A forecast made March 1 had put the peak, a time when 70% of the trees’ blossoms are open, between March 24 and 31. The National Cherry Blossom Festival doesn’t begin until Tuesday and runs through April 27, by which time the blossoms may be long gone.
The reason? Unusually warm temperatures that set a record Thursday of 82 at Reagan National Airport and 84 at Dulles International Airport. The big heat is coaxing the Yoshino cherry trees to blossom early — and there’s no sign of letup. The Weather Channel predicts Washington and Virginia next week will have temperatures in the mid- to high 70s and possibly as high as 80.
Park Service horticulturist Robert DeFeo was quoted in an email as saying the blossoms “are moving and won’t slow down — not with night temps staying in the 50s,” the Washington Post reported. The paper also said Thursday was the second time this week that the flowering forecast had changed.
This is the centennial year for the cherry trees around the Jefferson Memorial, which were a goodwill gift from Japan. The original gift in 1912 included several varieties of more than 3,000 trees, a number that has waned over the years to 1,678, the park’s website says.
Cherry trees, Yoshinos and other varieties, also can be found in East Potomac Park, the Washington Monument and other parks in the area.