Cherry blossom trees progressing, probably just over a week away from peak bloom

Normally by this date, cherry blossoms would have already reached peak bloom in Washington, D.C. (the recent average is March 31).  But thanks to a harsh winter and slow spring, this year’s bloom is delayed by about 10 days.

Peak bloom within our revised forecast window of April 11-15 seems on track.

There’s visible evidence that the cherry blossoms at Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin are making steady progress.  The National Park Service documented an extension of florets on the cherry trees on Monday (March 31) – which typically signals peak bloom is about two weeks away.

“Peduncle elongation” (see photo 4 below) is the next milestone in the blossoms’ development which should be achieved in the next few days (possibly even today).  After peduncle elongation, peak bloom typically occurs in about a week.


Phase of cherry blossom bud development. 1. Green color in buds 2. Florets visible 3.  Extension of florets 4. Peduncle elongation 5. Puffy white (National Park Service via ABC7)

Some photos from the Tidal Basin suggest this elongation process has already started/occurred on some trees/buds (see below). Hence, it’s plausible these cherry trees/buds reach full bloom by next weekend (April 12-13).

Blossom watchers should next look for the buds to turn puffy white –  a sign buds are about 4-6 days from bursting.  Photos suggest a few trees have even reached this phase.

The weather should help move the buds along over the next week.  Ideal blooming weather is warm sunny days and mild nights.  Cloudy days and/or cold nights can slow the blossoms down.

Weather models have generally backed off the idea for wintry weather next week (though Wednesday, April 9, may be chilly) and forecast highs mostly in the 60s (some 70s possible in about a week) and lows in the 40s.  The majority of days should feature at least partial sunshine although next Monday looks rainy (possibly Wednesday, too).


GEFS (set of simulations from GFS model) ensemble forecast high and low for next 16 days (WeatherBell.com)

Considering the favorable weather forecast and state of the buds together, it seems likely some trees will start to “pop” over the course of next work week, with peak bloom for the majority of trees next either next weekend (April 12 and 13) or perhaps early next week (April 14 and 15).

This is an inexact science – so adjustments to these estimates may be required. Stay tuned for updates!

Related content:

DC blooms: Where to find cherry blossoms in your neighborhood.

2013 and 2014 cherry blossom coverage

Ten days of cherry blossoms (PHOTOS, 2012)
Cherry blossoms bursting out (PHOTOS, 2012)
Cherry blossoms with an overcast sky (PHOTOS, 2011)
Washington’s cherry blossoms in the snow (PHOTOS, 2011)
A cherry blossom bird’s-eye view (PHOTOS, 2010)
Cherry Blossoms Wind Down as D.C. Greens Up (PHOTOS, 2009)
Cherry Blossom Morning (PHOTOS 2009)
Washington D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Bloom Begins (PHOTOS, 2009)
Photography: Falling Blossoms & Spring Scenes, Kevin Ambrose (2008)
Photography: A Blooming Good Time (2008)
Photography: Glorious Cherry Blossom Sunrise (2008)
Photography: Cherry Blossoms by Night (2008)
Photography: Flying High as Spring Blossoms (2008)

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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Jeff Halverson · April 4, 2014

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