The cherry blossoms are already opening in our nation’s capital.
People from around the world come to see the beautiful pink and white blossoms on almost 1,700 flowering cherry trees.
The peak bloom for Washington’s famous cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin this year could be one of the earliest ever.
The weather in Washington has been unusually warm the past few weeks.
The National Park Service forecast the peak date will occur between March 14 and March 17. That’s so early that organizers of the National Cherry Blossom Festival moved up of the start of the month-long event by five days, to March 15.
The park service, which carefully monitors the Yoshino cherry trees around the Tidal Basin, defines the peak blooming period from the moment 70% of the blossoms are open until the petals fall.
The earliest peak bloom on record occurred March 15, 1990, while the latest took place April 18, 1958, according to park service records. Last year’s peak bloom period occurred March 25. According to the park service’s website, peak bloom from 2013 to 2015 occurred around April 10.
Blossoms can last up to to 14 days, depending on wind, rain and frost. With this year’s early start, it is unlikely there were be any left for the festival parade up Constitution Avenue on April 8.
The city’s first cherry trees were a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912 as gesture of friendship and goodwill. About 100 of them are still alive. They are planted in Southwest Washington, along the Potomac River and a body of water called the Tidal Basin.
Since then, the number of trees has expanded to approximately 3,750 of 16 varieties on National Park Service land.
The cherry trees are a short walk from a number of major monuments, like the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument.
The blossoms are a spectacular site in the nation’s capital and have long stirred strong passions.
In 1937, a group of prominent Washington women were so indignant over the prospect of cutting down some of the trees to make way for the new Jefferson Memorial that 150 protesters chained themselves to a tree to halt construction, according to an park department account of “The Cherry Tree Rebellion.”
“The women were ultimately convinced to stand down after being served lunch by Assistant Secretary of the Interior Michael Strauss,” the park service says in an account of the event. “After never-ending cups of coffee, the ladies’ need for restrooms hastened their decision to remove the chains. (President) Roosevelt then had the rest of the trees removed in the middle of the night to avoid any further conflict.”
In 1941, four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, four cherry trees were cut down in what the park services says was “suspected retaliation” for the military strike. “The exact reason for the vandalism never was substantiated,” the park service says on its website. “In hopes of preventing future damage during the Second World War, the trees were referred to as the ‘Oriental’ flowering cherry trees.”