Peak bloom is almost here: Here’s how you can help protect DC’s famed cherry trees

Visitors walk past the Yoshino cherry trees along the Tidal Basin on Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Washington. The National Park Service predicts peak bloom will be from March 22 to March 25. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

Peak bloom is set to arrive on the Tidal Basin this week, kicking off one of the busiest and crowded stretches along the cherry tree-lined paths around D.C.’s famous monuments.

If you’ve lived in the D.C. area long enough, you should already know the rules about how to treat the trees. But that doesn’t mean everyone else does.

This year, the National Park Service is providing a little more help, and also allowing visitors to sign up to become a “protector” of the cherry trees, too.

“We’ve got a new program this year, visitors will see signage around the Tidal Basin encouraging them to take care, to become a cherry blossom protector,” said Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service.

Pins and badges will also be passed out to visitors.

“Everybody who is here can help us to become a protector of the cherry tree,” he added.

If you need a reminder, the rules are:

  • Don’t pick the blossoms
  • Don’t pick the branches
  • Don’t climb the trees

“A lot of them are older than they look,” Litterst said. “They may not be as strong as they look.”

Staying on the paved paths and not walking on the tree roots, is also helpful, though sometimes that’s easier said than done. That’s because peak bloom and the surrounding Cherry Blossom Festival “always brings out you and as many as a million and a half of your closest friends” to the area, Litterst said.

“It’s going to take you a little longer to get here; it’s going to take you a little longer to stroll around the Tidal Basin than it might normally,” he advised.

And, if while you’re doing that, if you see someone breaking off a branch or climbing a tree,  offering them a “gentle reminder” about caring for the trees “is never a bad thing,” he said.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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