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Peak bloom date for cherry blossoms pushed back because of cold

Cold temperatures this weekend could damage the 70 percent of cherry blossom buds that are now at what's called peduncle elongation, the fourth of six stages before peak bloom. (Courtesy National Park Service)

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WASHINGTON — The optimal time to see cherry blossoms along D.C.’s Tidal Basin area has been pushed back several days because of a predicted cold snap this weekend.

The National Park Service announced Wednesday peak bloom time for cherry blossoms would now be March 19-22. Last week, officials predicted the peak bloom would be between March 14-17.

Cold weekend temperatures have the potential to damage Tidal Basin cherry trees enough to lessen the impact of full bloom when it finally does arrive.

“If temperatures get to 27 degrees or lower, that could have a detrimental impact on the buds that are this far along [in stage four of six before full bloom],” said National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst. “Right now anyway, the forecast does show temperatures at that range end even below.”

The peak bloom date is defined as the day when 70 percent of the Yoshino Cherry blossoms are open. Despite a now later date for when that’s expected, Litterst said plans to open the Tidal Basin Welcome Center earlier than usual on March 15 will not be rescinded.

“Some of the varieties of trees are in bloom right now,” Litterst said Wednesday. “So, even if you were planning on those earlier dates, you might not get the full show of the Yoshinos, but there still are going to be blooms to see and events to take part in.”

The original peak bloom date would have bested the record set in 1990 for the earliest bloom by one day. Last year, the peak bloom occurred March 25. Between 2013 to 2015, peak bloom came in early April, according to the National Park Service.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival, which features street festivals, a fireworks display and other events, is scheduled to run March 15-April 16.


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