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Peak Bloom Will “Probably Involve Fewer Blossoms Than People Are Used To”

The cold snap has been rough for some of DC's cherry blossom trees.
All photographs by Evy Mages.

The outlook for some of DC’s cherry blossoms is not great. The recent snowstorm and bitter cold have damaged many of the blossoms.

On Wednesday, the National Park Service announced it had completed an inspection of the trees around the Tidal Basin. Widespread damage was found in blossoms that had reached the puffy white stage, which is stage five of the six stages in the bloom cycle.

The blossoms are particularly vulnerable to cold temperatures right now, as they are so close to peak bloom and exposed from the buds. The Park Service says blossoms begin to sustain damage when temperatures hit 27 degrees.

The peak bloom for the Yoshino cherry trees is still expected to happen within the newly projected March 19-22 window, but that may change as NPS continues its inspections. However, the number of trees that reach the blossom stage will most likely be reduced because of the cold.

“We are expecting that there will be peak bloom along the Tidal Basin, but it’ll probably involve fewer blossoms than people are used to,” says Mike Litterst, chief of communications for the National Mall and Memorial Parks. “Certainly, the color won’t be quite as dense as folks have seen in the past.”

It’s not all bad news, though. The Kwanzan species of cherry trees, the second-most abundant variety around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park, tend to bloom later, and because of that, their buds are protected from the cold. The Park Service is projecting peak bloom for those trees to hit around April 10-13.

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