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A guide to DC's 2023 cherry blossom season

Here's everything you need to know the iconic season in the District

WASHINGTON โ€” D.C.'s cherry blossom season is here! The iconic sign of spring has already started budding around the District. Here's everything you need to know about the blossoms, and the celebrations surrounding them. 

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Cherry blossom fast facts

  • There are 3,700 cherry trees on the National Mall; 90 are replaced annually
  • The original Cherry Trees were planted in 1912.
  • Find where the trees are blooming using this map

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What to know about the 2023 Cherry Blossom Festival

Officials say the festival celebrating Japanese culture and international friendship will be held from March 20 through April 16, 2023 in the District. Mickey and Minnie Mouse will also make an appearance at the upcoming festival. They are expected to travel all the way from Walt Disney to serve as grand marshals for the parade. 

In addition, on March 20, officials say the Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge will light up pink for its 2nd consecutive year in honor of the festival. 

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When is peak bloom?

The National Park Service reported peak bloom was reached on Thursday, March 23, 2023. That is, once again earlier than the average historic peak of April 4. It did fall right in the center of the predicted peak bloom window announced by D.C. leaders, which was between March 22 and March 25.

According to Mike Litterst from the National Park Service (NPS), the cherry trees reached stage one of the six-stage process on the way to peak bloom on Feb 23. They reached stage two on March 1, stage three on March 7 and entered peduncle elongation (stage 4) on March 11. By March 18, D.C.'s cherry trees had entered stage 5. 

Here are the six stages NPS tracks: 

  1. Green bud
  2. Florets visible
  3. Extension of florets
  4. Peduncle elongation
  5. Puffy blossom 
  6. Peak bloom
Credit: tt

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Are they blooming earlier?

Litterst said this is the fourth earliest stage one on record, however, the records only go back to 1992. The earliest the trees have ever entered stage one was on Feb. 13, 1998. The cherry blossoms did not hit peak bloom until March 27 that year.

โ€œWe are certainly seeing a correlation between rise of average temperatures and earlier blossoming of the cherry blossoms,โ€ Litterst said.

EPA data shows peak bloom dates are about a week earlier than a century ago, and the peak bloom has actually happened before April 4 for 16 of the past 20 years.

The agency explains that other environmental factors, like sunlight and temperature throughout the prior year, impact peak bloom timing, too. Scientists are confident a warming climate is a main contributing factor to earlier spring sights, such as cherry blossoms. 

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How is peak bloom predicted?

Litterst explains the countdown begins once the trees around the Tidal Basin reach dormancy over the winter. From there, NPS counts โ€œdegree days,โ€ when the high temp each day contributes to a grand total of 217.

โ€œWhen you reach 217-degree days, that's when peak bloom is going to occur. A day in the seventies is going to give you more points towards that than a day in the fifties or the forties,โ€ Litterst said.  

They also watch the โ€œindicator tree,โ€ which pretty reliably blooms about two weeks ahead of the others โ€“ plus historic patterns, even what other trees are starting to flower.

โ€œAll of that goes into the mix so that hopefully on March 1 we come up with a four-day window for when peak bloom is going to occur.โ€

Thereโ€™s nothing magic about that March 1 date, Litterst says itโ€™s just the soonest making a prediction makes sense.

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How many types of cherry blossoms are there around the DMV?

The two most common types that dominate the District now are the Yoshino and Kwanzan. In total, there are 11 different varieties of cherry blossom in D.C. Here's a closer look.

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Remember, you're not supposed to touch the blooms

It's important to remember during your visit that it's illegal to harm any natural resources under the National Park Service's jurisdiction. And yes, that includes D.C.'s cherry blossoms. 

Be sure not to shake, break, touch, or sit on any of the trees with the big pink or white blooms.

You can also protect the cherry trees for future generations by adopting a tree. Information on how to do that can be found here

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How do I get there? Where do I stay?

The cherry blossom trees currently grow in three National Park Service locations: around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, in East Potomac Park (Hains Point), and on the Washington Monument grounds. For information on varieties of cherry blossom trees and park maps, see the National Park Service cherry blossom page. 

Those coming from out of town can find hotel information here.

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How else can I scope out the blossoms?

You can check out the blossoms by bus or by boat this year. Here's more

   

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Can't be there in person?

People from anywhere in the world can view the National Mall Tidal Basin from the roof of the Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C., courtesy of EarthCam. 

Check out the Bloomcam to keep an eye on things at the Tidal Basin throughout the season.

The Trust for the National Mall also has two additional live streaming cameras -- #BudCam and #MonumentCam -- to offer enhanced views throughout the blooming season. 

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How did this whole thing get started?

The festival celebrates the famed 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C. The classic springtime celebration highlights the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan and has gone on to welcome more than 1.5 million people to enjoy the festivities, according to the website.

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