Things worth recognizing and admiring don’t often come easy. The advent of Washington D.C.’s cherry blossoms is no exception.
Considering over 1.5 million people turn up for the Cherry Blossom Festival each year, it’s safe to say that things worked out. But it took some time and effort to get us to this point.
Learn the history behind D.C.’s beloved cherry blossoms.
13 Facts About Washington, D.C.’s Cherry Trees
2. Upon rejection, Scidmore proceeded to advocate for cherry blossoms to every new superintendent for the next 24 years to no success.
3. In 1909, Scidmore decided to raise the money herself to purchase the trees and donate them to the city. She wrote to first lady Helen Taft briefing her on the plan, which led to Mrs. Taft sharing the initiative with a Japanese consul. The result? A 2,000-tree donation on behalf of the City of Tokyo. However, Tokyo’s Mayor, Yukio Ozaki, also had plenty of motivation to give following Theodore Roosevelt’s role in ending the Russo-Japanese War.
4. In 1910, after months at sea to Seattle, and several more weeks in freight across the country, the 2,000 cherry trees arrived in D.C. To everyone’s dismay, the trees were found to be infested with various pests and parasites and burned soon after.
5. Mayor Yukio Ozaki and Tokyo took the setback in stride, sending 3,020 younger cherry blossoms grown in disinfected soil comprised of shoots from the finest trees in Tokyo grafted onto wild cherry roots. They were cautious about potential spillage this time, shipping the trees via a more substantial, faster vessel as well as using preventative packing methods like fumigation and cold storage.
6. The cherry blossom transformation finally began in 1912. First Lady Helen Herron Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador, Viscountess Chinda, planted the first two Yoshino cherry trees along the northern bank of Potomac Tidal Basin.
7. The cherry blossom donation completed its loop in 1981 when U.S. horticulturists sent Japan around 800 cuttings from D.C.’s cherry blossoms to replace trees damaged by a flood.
8. Today, there are approximately 3,750 cherry trees on the Tidal Basin of a dozen different species, roughly 2,800 of which are Yoshinos.
9. Despite cherry blossoms only having an average lifespan of 15–30 years depending on the species, around 100 of the original 3,200 trees are still standing. We have the National Park Service’s frequent maintenance to thank for this one.
10. D.C.’s cherry trees have a short natural lifespan, but they also have the occasional beaver to fear. In 1999, a few pesky beavers were caught after gnawing cherry trees in the Tidal Basin, severely damaging four of them.
11. New cherry trees are genetic clones grown from cuttings of the originals. The National Park Service has a genetic repository of the cherry blossom trees. Recently, they sent 120 clones back to Japan so they can retain the genetic line, thus preserving the 1912 gift between the two countries.
12. Whether you’re tempted by their appearance or curious about what their fruit tastes like, resist the urge to pick a cherry blossom in D.C. Doing so is considered vandalism of federal property, which can lead to a citation or even arrest. Besides, the fruits produced are small and have large pits.
13. The cherry blossom blooming cycle generally lasts between March, 20 – April, 14, but the peak bloom period fluctuates. This year, the National Park Service (NPS) predicts the peak bloom period to be April 3-6.
If you’re reading this bummin’ because peak bloom date has passed, don’t fret. The NPS also states that optimal viewing time occurs four-to-seven days after peak bloom, so you may still have time.
The Cherry Blossom Festival culminates in a huge parade. This year, it’s April 14th.
Overnight hotels might be hard to come by, especially for reasonable rates.
If you’re coming into the city for the parade, a day hotel makes a lot of sense.
Explore D.C. day stays today with and get a discount when you use code: CHRYBLSM at booking!
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