When Will the Cherry Blossoms Return? Think March, Not April! - NBC4 Washington
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When Will the Cherry Blossoms Return? Think March, Not April!

Cherry Blossoms could bloom early this year in D.C.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Even though we have had a mild winter, you may still be dreaming of blossoms. Just when we will see D.C.'s cherry blossoms peak? Mike Litterst of the National Park Service says blossom forecasting can be tough. (Published Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017)

    What to Know

    • The mild winter may bring an early cherry blossom bloom in D.C., a National Park Service spokesman said Tuesday.

    • If the blossoms do peak in the last week of March, they'll dovetail nicely with the Cherry Blossom Festival.

    • Although the dates don't always quite match up, this year, the festival will run from March 25 to April 9.

    Sure, it's still winter, but unseasonably warm temperatures are making it feel like spring some days. Even better, the mild winter may bring an early cherry blossom bloom to D.C., a National Park Service (NPS) spokesman said Tuesday.

    The warm winter will likely get the blossoms to bloom in the last week of March -- unless we get a lot of snow or a major cold snap, Mike Litterst of the NPS said Tuesday.

    The cherry trees' blooming period is directly related to weather, which makes it notoriously difficult to forecast precise peak bloom dates more than 10 days in advance.

    "Like you know, it's dependent on the weather," Litterst told Storm Team4's Chuck Bell. "If you can tell me exactly what the high temperature's going to be for the next six weeks, we'll tell you exactly when the trees are going to bloom, but that's a little bit of a challenge."

    Peak bloom is officially considered the day when 70 percent of the Yoshino Cherry Blossoms along the Tidal Basin are in bloom. Of course, they're plenty gorgeous even before peak bloom, so the week or two leading up to it are also full of beautiful views.

    Experts at the NPS monitor the five stages of bud development closely to create the most accurate peak bloom prediction. The NPS makes at least one official prediction of peak bloom dates each year and sometimes later revises that date.

    The blooming period kicks off when the flowers begin developing as green buds; then florets become visible. The florets become extended, which is followed by a stage known as peduncle elongation. Once the cherry blossoms reach the puffy white stage, we know peak bloom is around the corner.

    Because of the delicate growth process, even the slightest weather change could alter or halt cherry blossom development. According to the National Park Service, cool and calm weather can make the bloom period last longer, but rainy or windy conditions could bring an abrupt end to the already fleeting bloom period. Snow could completely prevent the trees from blooming.

    Average peak bloom is usually the last week of March or the first week of April, Litterst said. Peak bloom last year fell on March 25.

    The latest peak bloom in D.C. was April 18 (1958), while the earliest was March 15 (1990). Both dates were a result of unusual weather.

    The National Park Service will continue to provide updates as they get closer to predicting the 2017 peak date.

    If the blossoms do peak in the last week of March, they'll dovetail nicely with the Cherry Blossom Festival. Although the dates don't always quite match up, this year, the festival will run from March 20 to April 16.