DC cherry blossoms’ peak bloom period pushed back

Cherry blossoms in bloom next to the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. (WTOP/John Domen)

WASHINGTON — Colder-than-normal weather forecasted for this week forced the National Park Service to push back the D.C. cherry blossoms’ predicted peak bloom period.

On Monday, the National Park Service predicted the peak bloom period of the cherry blossoms will now occur between March 27 and 31. Earlier this month, the peak bloom was projected to start between March 17 and 20.

“Looking at the forecast, we’re having colder-than-expected temperatures and that has resulted in the adjustment of the peak bloom prediction,” said National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst.

The 10-day shift is one Litterst said baffles the park service. The mathematical model it relies on still shows the blossoms reaching their peak on March 18, but the trees themselves seem to indicate something different.

“When we go out and look at the trees, they are still in that first phase — that green bud phase — and the temperatures forecasted for over the next week to 10 days don’t indicate that we are going to get the temperatures we need to get us over that hump in the next week,” Litterst said.

Frigid, blustery conditions are expected this week: both Tuesday and Wednesday will have below-averages temperatures and gusty conditions. On Wednesday, wind chills will push temperatures into the teens and 20s, Storm Team4 Meteorologist Amelia Draper said. Typical highs are in the mid-50s this time of year.

“As far as the cherry blossoms go, our cooler weather has kept the buds tightly closed,” Draper said.

Peak bloom occurs when 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry trees are in bloom. The Yoshino trees are the most abundant of the 12 species around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park.

Once they bloom, the cherry blossoms’ flowers can last up to 10 days, the park service said.

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report.

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