Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Cherry Blossom Season

Washington, D.C. is a beautiful city in the spring...especially when the Cherry Blossoms pop. I've been fortunate enough over the years to live close enough to meander about the city just in search of the perfect photo op. This year I didn't make it down there, but my Facebook feed was filled with photos from friends who were able to make it there. Simply Gorgeous! 

If you are like me and can't make it to DC (or don't care to wrestle with the inevitable crowds of everyone else wanting to see the scenic view too), you can find a bunch of photos on the @CherryBlossomWatch's Instagram page or follow the beauty on their Facebook page.

According to Cherry Blossom Watch's website and its work with the National Park Service, peak bloom was predicted to "spring" into floral glory this past week, March 22 to 25th. Historically, the peak occurs around April 4th. While the peak bloom only lasts a few days (depending on weather conditions--especially wind and rain), the Cherry Blossom Festival now runs for almost a month. This year, the festival is from March 20th to April 17th this year. The festival annually is predicted to fall when peak season occurs, however it's always a bit of a guessing game. Late winter warmth can make the blossoms appear earlier, whereas a cooler winter pushes the season later. So it's a science of appearance that only nature truly knows.

The cherry blossom trees were a gift of friendship to the United States from Japan in 1912. The original gift of 3,020 trees were planted around the city, and after careful cultivation through the year, cuttings from these original trees have been replanted to maintain the original genetic line of the trees. Now the iconic blossoming views are around the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial are part of our American culture; and here we are, 110 years later, still enjoying their beauty. 

Given global warming temperatures, the trend of when these trees blossom has been creeping earlier and earlier in the year. National Park Service has been tracking peak bloom dates since 1921. This winter, with the second warmest December on record and mild weather in February and March, the 2022 peak dates have come about a week earlier than the averages over the last 30 years. In fact, this year marks the third year in a row of earlier arrivals than normal. The reason? Warming trends and earlier blooms are a result of a warming planet. has an excellent article that goes even deeper into the science of climate change and its effects on the cherry blossoms. The biggest reason that this is a big deal is because of the timetable of when the pollinators mature and can visit and fertilize the flowers... which then affects the timing of the resulting food chain of critters who feed on these pollinators. Further studies on the cherry trees in Japan and their blossoms indicate the same climate trend, where trees in Kyoto, Japan had their earliest blooms ever last year on March 26th, 2021.

This 2016 video created by the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program details the reasons behind the earlier season (along with some amazing views).

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