Peak bloom dates for DC’s famed cherry blossoms announced

Cherry blossom trees are seen during peak bloom along the National Mall beneath the Washington Monument in downtown Washington, D.C. on March 29, 2021. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)

D.C.’s iconic cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin and National Mall are expected to hit “peak bloom” between March 23 and March 26.

The National Park Service unveiled its prediction at a news conference Thursday morning alongside the organizers of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Predicting peak bloom this year was tricky because of a record-warm January and fluctuating temperatures, said National Park Service Superintendent of the National Mall Jeff Reinbold.

Peak bloom is defined as the point when 70% of the blossoms on the 3,700 Yoshino cherry trees around the Tidal Basin and National Mall are open. Once the trees reach peak bloom, the blossoms can stay in their ideal state for up to 10 days based on weather conditions.

This year’s predicted peak bloom is about two weeks ahead of the average peak bloom date of April 4.

The earliest peak bloom recorded in D.C. was March 15 in 1990, according to the park service.

How peak bloom is predicted

The peak bloom date is based on long-term weather forecasts, historical records and the current appearance of the trees, Reinbold said.

“This has been a particularly puzzling year to read the trees and establish a projected date for peak bloom,” he said.

Because of unusually warm temperatures in January — Reinbold said it was the warmest January on record — the trees never reached dormancy, which is a key factor in calculating when the blooms will emerge.

In addition, the park service’s “indicator tree” is showing several different phases of bloom currently, in part because of the recent temperature swings.

More cherry blossom news:

Predicting peak bloom is not an exact science.

Six out of the past nine years, peak bloom has arrived earlier than the park service’s prediction. Over the past decade, the only time the park service nailed the prediction was last year, when the blossoms hit peak bloom March 23. The park service had predicted peak bloom between March 22 and March 25.

Warm temperatures can speed up the process, which consists of six stages.

By this time last year, D.C.’s Yoshino cherry trees had started to bud, the first stage in the emergence of the blossoms.

What to know about the National Cherry Blossom Festival

The blooming of D.C.’s cherry trees is often considered the hallmark sign of spring in the nation’s capital, as large crowds flock to the Tidal Basin.

The monthlong National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 20-April 14, includes a series of concerts and performances on the National Mall, a kite festival on the grounds of the Washington Monument and a parade.

National Cherry Blossom Festival President Diana Mayhew speaks Thursday during a news conference announcing the National Park Service’s peak bloom prediction. (WTOP/ Shayna Estulin)

All told, the festival is expected to draw more than 1.5 million visitors to the city, according to acting Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Nina Albert.

The festival is a “huge economic driver” for D.C., she said.

In April, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the first lady are expected to pay an official visit to D.C., a spokesperson for the Japanese embassy said.

You can see all the scheduled events on the National Cherry Blossom Festival website.

Tickets for the March 23 opening ceremony are already sold out, according to Diana Mayhew, president of the festival.

The original cherry blossoms were given as a gift to D.C. by the mayor of Tokyo in 1912 and symbolize friendship between Japan and the U.S.

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Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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