Blooming cherry trees at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial on the Tidal Basin

Blooming cherry trees at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial on the Tidal Basin

The Cherry Blossoms are finally blooming in Washington, D.C.!  Typically, the iconic blossoms appear during the last week of March and the first week of April.  This year, however, due to the lingering cold and wintery weather, they appeared very late!  But this weekend, they are out everywhere in all their glory! The blossoms can bloom for up to two weeks, but since they are so fragile, they are subject to the whim of nature – a good storm can blow them all away!

This blossoming variety bears no fruit, just elegant, delicate petals that bathe the entire landscape in a pale pink hue. And the city goes mad!  Cherry blossom parade, Cherry blossom run, Cherry blossom cruises, Cherry blossom art exhibits…on and on.  You can sample the wide range of activities here

The original 3000 Cherry Blossom trees were a gift from the Japanese government in 1912 as a symbol of friendship between the nations.  Historically, the cherry trees symbolize the renewal of life and are considered to announce the official arrival of spring to Washington., D.C. The first two were planted at the end of 17th St., NW at the basin by First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador.  Today there is a large plaque at the base of the trees commemorating that occasion.

The first Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1935, but the festivities were suspended from 1942-1946 due to World War II.  In 1941, four of the trees were cut down, presumably in retaliation for the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor.  As a result, and in an attempt to stave off further attacks on the trees, the National Park Service began referring to them as “Oriental”.

A team of arborists lovingly cares for and maintains the well-being of the trees.  Cuttings are taken are propagated to ensure the genetic lineage from the original trees and in some cases, cuttings have been returned to Japan to help in preserving the lineage and cultivation of these ancient trees in that country.  Today there are more than 3750 blossoming cherry trees in Washington.IMG_5235

About 1.5 million people visit the Cherry Blossom Festival annually to help usher in springtime and participate in the festivities.