Halfway there: Cherry blossoms hit 3rd bloom stage. But will upcoming cold snap harm them?

D.C.’s cherry blossoms are halfway to peak bloom.

The National Park Service announced Tuesday the cherry blossoms had reached the third of six stages to peak bloom — the extension of the buds’ florets.

This is the earliest the trees have reached this stage in recent years, with the exception of 2017, when a similarly early blooming season was cut short by a late frost.

With the pulse on every Washingtonian’s favorite blooming tree, Mike Litterst with the National Park Service said he is not concerned just yet — even with cold temperatures forecast for the rest of the week.

“So far, so good,” he said, adding that the Yoshino cherry trees along the Tidal Basin are still looking like they’ll hit peak bloom between March 22 and March 25.

Planning for visitors, as well as the National Cherry Blossom Festival, around a thermometer rather than a date keeps the Park Service on its toes. Litterst said it’s not surprising that March in D.C. is  ushering in some cold temperatures.

But what kind of weather would truly be damaging to the budding blossoms?

“We would need temperatures sub-27 degrees, and the blossoms would have to be emerging before we’d have any concern,” Litterst said.

With the blossoms reaching stage three of six Tuesday, they are just one day off the timeline in 2017 when, after an early start to the season, a late cold snap caused a majority of the blooms to die off.

“It’s really hard to compare year-to-year because so much of it is temperature-driven, Litterst said. In 2017, he noted, there were only two days between stage three and stage four, which is known as peduncle elongation.

“We had a real warm spell in there over those couple of days,” he added. “But then, everything just sort of stopped for the better part of two weeks, and then we hit the freezing snap.”

For now, he said the park service doesn’t see similar extremes in this year’s forecast.

For planning’s sake, he said he hopes it stays that way.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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