History of the Cherry Blossom Trees and FestivalEach year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries.
In a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. Between the governments of the two countries, coordination by Dr. Jokichi Takamine, a world-famous chemist and the founder of Sankyo Co., Ltd. (today know as Daiichi Sankyo), Dr. David Fairchild of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Eliza Scidmore, first female board member of the National Geographic Society, and First Lady Helen Herron Taft, the trees arrived in Washington.
A first batch of 2,000 trees arrived diseased in 1910, but did not deter the parties. Just two years later in 1912, new trees arrived and were planted. These are the trees that now turn the Tidal Basin into a cloud of pink each spring for all to enjoy.
In 1915, the United States Government reciprocated with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. A group of American school children reenacted the initial planting and other activities, effectively holding the first “festival” in 1927. The Festival grew again in 1935, sponsored by civic groups in the nation’s capital.
First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted 3,800 more trees in 1965. In 1981, the cycle of giving came full circle. Japanese horticulturists were given cuttings from the trees to replace some cherry trees in Japan which had been destroyed in a flood.
The Festival was expanded to two weeks in 1994 to accommodate a diverse activity schedule during the blooming period. Today, more than a million people visit Washington, DC each year to admire the blossoming cherry trees and attend events that herald the beginning of spring in the nation’s capital.
2012 CentennialA Once In A Lifetime Celebration
In 1912, an incredible gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees was bestowed on Washington, DC by Tokyo, Japan. Rooted strongly and surviving outside elements, the trees have withstood the test of time – and nearly a century later, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is preparing for an unprecedented and once-in-a-lifetime celebration.
The epic 5-week spectacular, from March 20 – April 27, 2012, will unify and electrify the city, the nation, and the world. Washington, DC and the region will be abuzz with excitement. Creativity and innovation will permeate signature Festival events elevating them to new heights, and ground-breaking Centennial exhibitions and programming will amaze and delight. Timeless traditions. Rich culture. Renowned artists. World-class performers. The community at its best!
2012 Bloom WatchAverage Peak Bloom Date: April 4
2012 Peak Bloom Date: March 20
2012 Blooming Period Forecast: March 18 – ???
Exactly when the buds will open is not easy to predict and it is extremely difficult to give an accurate forecast much more than 10 days before peak bloom. National Park Service horticulturists monitor five distinct stages of bud development and provide timely forecasts and updates.
The Peak Bloom Date is defined as the day on which 70 percent of the blossoms of the Yoshino cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin are open. This date varies from year to year, depending on weather conditions. The Blooming Period is defined as that period when 20 percent of the blossoms are open until the petals fall and leaves appear. The blooming period starts several days before the peak bloom date and can last as long as 14 days, however, frost or high temperatures combined with wind or rain can shorten this period.
Visit the National Park Service‘s website with links to the Blossom Cam, cherry blossom photos, and information on how to donate to the Cherry Tree Replacement Fund.
The following is a comparative record of past bud development. The date listed is when 70 percent of the buds have reached each stage:
- Green Color in Buds: Mid to late February – Early March
- Florets Visible: Early to Mid March, Av. 16-21 days to Peak Bloom
- Extension of Florets: Av. 12-17 days to Peak Bloom
- Peduncle Elongation: Av. 5-10 days to Peak Bloom (Frost Critical)
- Puffy White: Av. 4-6 days to Peak Bloom
QUESTIONS ABOUT CHERRY BLOSSOMS
When will the cherry blossom trees bloom?
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is planned to coincide as nearly as possible with the blooming of the trees. Peak Bloom Date is defined as the day on which 70 percent of the blossoms of the Yoshino cherry trees are open. The date when the Yoshino cherry blossoms reach peak bloom varies from year to year, depending on weather conditions. The mean date of blooming is April 4, but nature is not always cooperative and the National Park Service horticulturists cannot make an accurate prediction much more than 10 days prior. The blooming period starts several days before the Peak Bloom Date and can last as long as 14 days; however, frost or high temperatures combined with wind and/or rain can shorten this period. See more information about the blooming period.
I want to see the cherry blossoms when they are in bloom. Which days should I plan my visit?
Since a close-to-accurate prediction of the blooming period cannot be made until early March each year, the Festival advises that you take stock of the other activities you want to engage in during your visit. For example, if attending the Parade and Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival are a priority, plan your visit for that weekend of the Festival. Fill your itinerary with all you want to see in Washington, DC and do at the Festival; and include walking around the Tidal Basin among them.
The various stages of bloom on the trees are wonderful each in their own way, from the vivid pink of the buds about to burst, to the softer pink of the blossoms on the trees, to the snowy white environment of the petals falling off the trees. So no matter when you visit Washington, DC during cherry blossom season, you’ll see something memorable happening at the Tidal Basin.
When is the best time of day to see the cherry blossoms?
Anytime is a good time to see the blossoms. However, visitors should be prepared for heavier crowds on weekends and when the trees reach their peak blooming period. There is no guarantee, but there are often fewer people during the week, early in the morning, and in late afternoon/early evening.
Where are the cherry blossom trees located?
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 which varieties of cherry blossom trees are located in which park and maps, see the National Park Service cherry blossom page.
How do I get to the Tidal Basin?
Visit our Visitor Information page to download helpful documents that advise you on how to drive, bike, and walk to the Tidal Basin.
Are there any tours (led or self-guided) to see the cherry blossom trees?
For led tours, there are several options. Here’s a complete list of cherry blossom-specific tours.
The National Park Service and the National Cherry Blossom Festival publish a pamphlet for visitors to use on a self-guided tour. This map can be picked up at the Information Stations located on the north side of the Tidal Basin (grounds of the Washington Monument) and the south side of the Tidal Basin (adjacent to the Jefferson Memorial), which are in place throughout the Festival.
Are there wheelchairs available for rent at the Tidal Basin?
The National Park Service has a limited supply of wheelchairs available for rent at no charge. Wheelchairs may be checked out from either the World War II Memorial or the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. Visitors can sign out an available wheelchair on a first-come first-served basis by leaving a form of ID (i.e., drivers license) but wheelchairs must remain at that memorial site. They are not permitted around the mall. Upon return of the wheelchair, the ID will be returned.
Can I bring my dog with me to the Tidal Basin?
Dogs are allowed on the National Mall and Memorial Parks but the owner must keep the dog on a leash 100% of the time. Never is an owner allowed to let a dog run freely in any of these locations. Also the owners are NEVER allowed to let the dog “go to the bathroom” in the Reflecting Pool or in the pool at the World War II Memorial. The National Park Service has had and continues to have problems in this regard and are making best attempts at educating the public.
What else should I know about the cherry blossom trees?
The plantings of the cherry blossom trees originated as a gift in 1912 from the people of Japan to the United States as gesture of friendship and goodwill. Since then, the number of trees has expanded to approximately 3,750 trees of 16 varieties on National Park Service land.
For the most part, the care of the Japanese flowering cherries has been entrusted to the members of the Tree Crew for National Capital Parks-Central. These individuals are professional arborists who posses technical competence through experience and related training to provide for the care of the trees.
As hard as members of the Tree Crew work year round, there are things you can do to assist in the maintenance and longevity of the trees when you visit:
*Please do not climb the trees or pick branches.
*Be aware of walking around the roots of the trees as ground compaction causes damage to the trees.
I want to hold a large picnic or wedding under the cherry blossom trees. What do I need to do?
Please call the Office of Park Programs/Permits Office at (202) 619-7225. Large picnics can only be held at Hains Point and a permit is only required from Memorial Day through Labor Day. All other times are on a first-come first-served basis.
An approved Special Use Permit application is required to have wedding ceremonies on or near the National Mall. Advise the office personnel that you would like to apply for a permit to have a wedding ceremony. A Special Use Permit application can be picked up or faxed to you. Completed applications should be mailed to the Office of Parks Programs, at the address on the application, or faxed to (202) 401-2430. An application fee may be required for this permit. There are certain site locations in and along the National Mall where wedding ceremonies are allowed. Please ask for available site locations and required fees. The Office of Park Programs will help you find a location for your wedding so that it does not interfere with other groups who already have a permit.
How can I get my own cherry blossom tree?
The National Cherry Blossom Festival, in conjunction with Arbor Day Foundation, has cherry blossom trees available for purchase. Here are the details.
Who can I contact for specific cherry blossom tree questions or questions about National Park Service property?
Send an e-mail to the National Capital Region Public Affairs Office or call (202) 619-7222.
What is the National Cherry Blossom Festival?
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is Washington, DC’s and the nation’s greatest springtime celebration that annually celebrates the gift of the cherry blossom trees and their symbol of enduring friendship between the citizens of Japan and the United States. Timed in conjunction with the peak blooming period of the trees, the city-wide event attracts visitors and area residents to hundreds of events in partnership with more than 30 local organizations.
The Festival is organized by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting the beauty of nature and international friendship through year-round programs, events, and educational initiatives that enhance our environment, showcase arts and culture, and build community spirit.
What sorts of events occur during the Festival?
The Festival features creative and diverse activities that promote traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty and the environment, and community spirit and youth education, the majority of which are free and open to the public. Signature Festival events include Family Day and the Opening Ceremony, the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade®. There are over 150 daily cultural performances by local, national and international entertainers, sports competitions, and so much more. Browse the Event section by category or date for event listings and additional information.
Where does the Festival take place?
Festival events and programs take place throughout Washington, DC and its suburbs. Browse the Event section for event listings and their locations.
Are tickets required to attend the Festival?
Many Festival events are FREE and open to the public. However, there are a few exceptions. Events that require paid admission are indicated with a Dollar Symbol ($) next to their listings. Browse the Events section for event listings and to see which events have admissions fees. .
How can I get more information about the Festival?
The Festival website has the most current information available and is constantly being updated. If you would like a printed version of the Calendar of Events, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope with your request to: National Cherry Blossom Festival, 1250 H Street, NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20005. The current year’s calendar of events is available in late February each year.
You can also retrieve Festival information once in Washington by visiting Festival information centers. There is a Welcome Area located on the southern grounds of the Washington Monument, and Information Kiosk located on the west side of the Jefferson Memorial. There is also an official Festival Headquarters at Union Station with information and official merchandise.
How can I get more information about the Parade?
Download the Parade FAQ sheet.
Where should I stay for the Festival?
The Festival partners with numerous Washington, DC hotels that are located both within the District and the surrounding areas, providing visitors with numerous options and deals when selecting where to stay during your trip. View the list of participating hotels.
How can I get more information about Washington, DC or assistance in planning my trip?
To get more information about Washington, DC while planning your trip, see the Visitor Information page, or call the Festival Hotline at (877) 44BLOOM to address specific questions regarding information on area airports, recommended hotels, etc.
How do I get in contact with the Festival organization to address specific questions?
E-mail or call the Festival Hotline at (877) 44BLOOM.
What are the future dates of the National Cherry Blossom Festival?
The 2011 Festival is March 26 – April 10, 2011; with the Parade on Saturday, April 9.
The 2012 Festival (100th Anniversary of the Gift of Trees) will be March 20 – April 27; with the Parade on Saturday, April 14.
How can I volunteer to help the National Cherry Blossom Festival?
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is always looking for volunteer assistance. If you would like to volunteer, here’s more information or contact us at (202) 661-7595 or send an e-mail.
What performance opportunities are there at the Festival?
There are numerous performance opportunities available during the Festival, mainly at the Parade, Performance Stage at Sylvan Theater, and Festival Stage on Woodrow Wilson Plaza. Here’s more information about the opportunities and how to apply.
How do I get in contact with the Festival regarding sponsorship or promotional opportunities (including sampling)?
E-mail Maria Barry, Development & Corporate Sponsorships Manager, or call (202) 661-7564.