2018 Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

3 Week Festival In Washington DC

If you are planning to visit our Nations’ Capital of Washington, DC in the spring between late March and early April, you surely are coming to see the National Cherry Blossoms in bloom! This is a three week festival beginning the last Saturday of March. It’s kicked off with a Family Day at the National Building Museum and opening ceremony at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. Besides the breath taking views of Cherry Blossoms in bloom all along the National Mall, there is a Blossom Kite Festival, a sushi and sake celebration, bike tours of the Tidal Basin, art exhibits, cultural performances, singing, dancing, martial arts, a rugby union tournament and ends with a fireworks show on the nearby Washington Channel. There is so much to do during this festival and SOOOO many people in attendance. It is thought that some 700,000+ people will visit Washington, D.C. during the Cherry blossom festival.

So what started this fantastic festival?

On March 27, 1912, the Mayor of Tokyo, Mr. Yukio Ozaki gifted the city of Washington, D.C. cherry blossom trees to “enhance the growing friendship between the United States and Japan” and to celebrate our relationship between the two nations. The first ceremony or festival was held on March 27, 1912. Initially two tress were planted on the north bank of the Tidal Basin by then First Lady Helen Herron Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador Viscountess Chinda. These two trees still stand near 17th Street and are marked by a large ornate plaque. In response to Japans generous gift, in 1915, the United states government gifted flowering dogwood trees to Japan. From the years 1913 to 1920, approximately 1,800 of the 30,020 trees donated in 12 varieties of Cherry Blossom trees were of the Somei-Yoshino variety and were planted around the Tidal Basin. An unknown number of trees from 11 other cultivars along with Yoshinos variety were planted in East Potomac Park.

The first ever Cherry Blossom Festival

Was held in 1934 which has since become an annual event. In 1938 there was plans to cut down a number of trees to clear the ground for the building of the Jefferson Memorial. As you can image this caused quite an uproar and a group of women chained themselves together in protest on the site. Eventually a compromise was made, the ground was cleared to build the now standing Jefferson Memorial and as a compromise more cherry blossom trees were planted along the south side of the Tidal Basin.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor

On December 11, 1941, four trees were cut down in suspected retaliation. Although this was never confirmed. So for the duration of the war the Cherry blossoms were referred to as “Oriental” flowering cherry trees. During World War II the cherry blossom festival was suspended and resumed in 1947 with the Washington, D.C Board of Trade and Commissioners approval.

Since there are several varieties of cherry trees

I thought I’d give you a little bit more information on them. The Somei-Yoshino trees produce a single white cherry blossom and are said to look like white clouds surrounding the tidal basin. Also around the Tidal Basin are a Akebono variety, these bloom at the same time as the Yoshino and also produce a single blossom, however there’s is pale pink in color. The Varity view in East Potomac Park comes from the Kwanzan variety and they bloom roughly 2 weeks after the Yoshino on the National Mall. So if for some reason your travels bring you a bit later than the festival around the tidal basin, you might be able to catch a glimpse of blooms in East Potomac Park still. The Kwanzan blooms a cluster of what are called “clear-pink double blossoms”. Also in East Potomac Park the Fugenzo, produces a rosy pink double blossom and the Shirofugen a while double blossom that over time turns pink in color.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival draws crowds of people from all Nations around the world for a reason. It is a beautiful and breath taking display of natures beauty.