Viewers take advantage of virtual views of DC’s iconic cherry blossoms

For many people heeding the advice of the National Park Service and others not to see D.C.’s iconic cherry trees in peak bloom in person again this year, they’re turning to virtual options.

Among the cameras capturing the blooms in all their splendor are those being operated by the Trust for the National Mall.

“We’re really honored to bring the beautiful, beloved blooms, this symbol of friendship between two countries, really bringing it to viewers across the world,” said Catherine Townsend, president and CEO of the Trust.

Japan gifted the U.S. 3,000 saplings in 1912. The delicate pink-and-white blooms create a show and draw thousands of people to the nation’s capital every spring.

Last year, coronavirus restrictions along the Tidal Basin put a stop to the annual pilgrimage, and with little time to plan, the Trust set up its #BloomCam to allow people to take in the blooms virtually. The camera has returned this year.

This year, #BloomCam offers several views of the Tidal Basin, from a new permanent location at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Townsend said Monday could mark the first day of quality peak bloom viewing since Sunday was quite rainy. The website has seen a spike in viewers in recent days — close to 250,000 views this season, so far.

“We’ve had a lot of viewers last week just because we already have the cameras, and we were already set up. But peak bloom hadn’t happened yet,” Townsend said.

Last year, during the 10-day peak bloom window, 750,000 people tuned in from over 160 countries.

The Trust has also added a new camera called #BudCam: A high-resolution camera takes still close-up shots every few minutes of a batch of cherry blossom blooms.

Once the last petal falls, the new camera will also offer an interesting review of this year’s season.

“We’ll have a beautiful time lapse, pretty soon, to show off the buds blooming — from their pretty blooms through the peak,” Townsend said.

Townsend said from its speedy setup last year, to the more planned out camera placement this year, she has received a lot of praise for offering the world a glimpse of this cherished D.C. nature show.

The Trust, which is the main fundraising arm of the National Mall, is also using this season to raise money to protect and maintain the cherry blossom trees. Camera visitors are being encouraged to take part in the Endow a Cherry Tree Campaign, which the Trust hopes to grow to $3.5 million.

“We’re trying to grow our endowment to a significant amount, where the interest will fund the Park Service’s work year-round for generations to come,” Townsend said.

Each year, roughly 90 cherry trees must be replaced, since most only have a life span of 40 to 50 years. Only 12 trees from the planting in 1912 still remain.

As for the cameras, they will continue to operate 24/7 even after all the cherry blossom petals fall, according to Townsend.

They will keep rolling to offer year-round views of the Tidal Basin. There are also plans to add yet another camera to the mix next year.

More Cherry Blossom News

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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