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This 2024 Calendar Celebrates Stumpy, DC’s Favorite Little Cherry Tree

As it turns out, there's a Stumpy for every season.

Stumpy, dressed up as the "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree. Photograph by Kevin Ambrose.

Looking for a gift that inspires? That encourages people to persist through life’s seasons? To bloom in spite of new challenges? This may be just the thing: “Seasons of Stumpy,” a 2024 calendar documenting the Tidal Basin’s endearingly scrawny cherry tree through all four seasons.

The comical yet poignant calendar comes from Kevin Ambrose, a photographer and freelance writer for The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang. For the past 20 years, the weather nut has been compiling his collection of dramatic DC weather photos into an annual calendar called “Seasons of Washington.”

Last month, while assembling pics for his 2024 calendar, Ambrose began to realize how many pics he had solely of Stumpy—arguably DC’s favorite tree—too. In his collection was Stumpy enduring a blustery Nor’easter; Stumpy arching toward a lightning strike; Stumpy awash in Fourth of July fireworks; Stumpy (unfortunately) swimming in high tide; and, of course, Stumpy basking in full peak bloom. Looking through them all, “it almost made me laugh to think ‘Seasons of Stumpy,’” said Ambrose. Of course, with a title like that he had to do it.

Stumpy during peak bloom. “Stumpy is literally a stump with a stick coming out toward the sky, but when it goes into full bloom, you get this big pink cluster that looks so cool.” Photograph by Kevin Ambrose.

It’s not the first time Ambrose has made somewhat of a gag calendar. The year after the noisy Brood X cicadas emerged, he created a cicada-themed calendar of Washington too. “I was like, ‘This is never going to sell,’ but it did pretty well,” says Ambrose. Now, his Stumpy calendar is looking like it might be his best yet: “It’s outperforming my Seasons of Washington calendar by about five to one,” he says. 

That’s likely because Stumpy, as Ambrose wrote in an article for The Post earlier this year, has quite a fanbase (in fact, last spring, Ambrose had to wait in line behind a crowd of admirers just to snap a pic of the tree). Aside from Stumpy’s endearingly pathetic stature, part of the appeal is that “Stumpy perseveres,” says Ambrose, who has been photographing the decidedly unphotogenic tree long before it got its name (which, according to him, was in 2020 after a Reddit user compared the pitiful tree to their love life).

A flooded Stumpy during high tide. Photograph by Kevin Ambrose.

A frequent visitor to the Tidal Basin, Ambrose is usually there to capture striking photos of monuments against the backdrop of nature. However, he always tries to swing by Stumpy when he can.

“It always amazes me that this stick of a tree with hardly any bark and just one branch continues to live year after year” says Ambrose. He adds that, in some ways, the cherry tree has also become a symbol for the challenges posed by a changing climate. Not only must Stumpy endure the seasons, he says, but also “the challenges of the Tidal Basin, with its crumbling seawall, sinking land, and rising water levels.”

Still, for as long as Stumpy is here, Ambrose plans to keep visiting the dogged little tree (he’s already floating the idea of a 2025 Stumpy calendar). As he puts it: “I’m always rooting for Stumpy to live another year.”

Jessica Ruf
Assistant Editor