National Park Service revises peak Cherry blossom bloom dates

Fickle weather has once again changed D.C.'s cherry blossoms' predicted dates of peak bloom, the National Park Service announced Tuesday.

WASHINGTON — Once again, fickle weather has changed the predicted bloom dates for D.C.’s cherry blossoms. National Park Service officials are now saying that the best time to see the blossoms is on March 23 and March 24.

[related_gallery align=”right”]This timeframe is narrower than the March 18-March 23 prediction park officials gave last week. National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said Tuesday that colder temperatures were the reason for the shorter bloom window.

Initially, park officials thought the cherry blossoms would reach peak bloom at the end of the month.

“It’s really like nothing else we do, trying to predict something that so many people are counting on,” Litterst said last week.

This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival, which marks the anniversary of Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees, runs from March 20 through April 17. It’s one of D.C.’s biggest tourism events.

But peak bloom doesn’t always coincide with the festival’s dates. Peak bloom is when 70 percent of the trees around the Tidal Basin are in blossoming. Once in bloom, the flowers can last four to 10 days, depending on weather conditions.

Litterst says when the prediction is made more than a week in advance, it’s tricky to get it exactly right, especially as Mother Nature tends to change plans without warning in the spring.

The earliest the cherry blossoms have bloomed was on March 15 in 1990, Litterst says.

The revised peak bloom date is causing the park service to move up the opening of the Tidal Basin Welcome Area too. The area, located near the paddle boats at Maine Avenue SW and Raoul Wallenberg Place SW, will now be open from March 18 — April 3 (it was previously scheduled from April 2-17).

WTOP’s Sarah Beth Hensley and Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.

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