Will a mild winter mean an early bloom for DC’s cherry blossoms?

February 19, 2020

Seen in this 2019 photo, the Washington Monument is positioned for some great shots on the eastern half of the Tidal Basin on the approach to the Jefferson Memorial. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)

Warmer weather has left some with a feeling that spring could be coming to the D.C. region weeks ahead of schedule — and with March around the corner, all eyes are on the National Mall’s beloved cherry blossoms.

The National Park Service is sampling trees around the Tidal Basin and Hains Point for a better idea of how this winter’s unusually warm temperatures will impact peak bloom.

“We’ve had a mild winter and we haven’t had much snow, the trees really haven’t gone into a deep dormancy,” said Brian Hall, spokesman for the NPS unit which oversees the National Mall and its memorials. “The trees are just fine, but it’s about whether or not it’s going to throw off the blooming cycle, and that’s why we’re trying to get the best information from our professionals.”

Over the next few weeks, that data will collected and be fed into algorithms based on years of bloom cycles — a bit more sophisticated than Punxsutawney Phil’s approach. This year’s peak bloom outlook will be announced at a news conference on March 4.

Some blossoms are already opening up elsewhere downtown and at National Harbor after record-setting daytime highs in early February, sparking concern that this coming bloom could be a dud — but fear not, they’re not the famed Yoshino trees which line the Tidal Basin.

Cherry blossoms are considered to be in peak bloom when at least 70% of trees around the Tidal Basin are open — a date that can vary wildly based on how cold and snowy the preceding months have been. Last season’s blossoms peaked on April 1, but many trees tend to open up days to over a week sooner than the projected peak — good to keep in mind for those hoping to beat the crowd.

The 2020 National Cherry Blossom Festival will feature daily events from March 20 to April 12, with an opening ceremony on March 21 and a parade on April 4.

WTOP’s Jack Pointer contributed to this report.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2020 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up