The Washington Post

Michelle Obama to reenact first cherry tree planting Tuesday

First lady Michelle Obama will mark the centennial of Washington’s Japanese cherry blossoms Tuesday by reenacting the first planting of the trees in a ceremony along the Tidal Basin, officials said Monday.

The first lady will be joined by, among others, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki and the president of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Diana Mayhew.

The Tuesday morning event commemorates the March 27, 1912, planting of the first cherry trees on the Tidal Basin by then-first lady Helen Taft and then-Japanese ambassador to the U.S. Sutemi Chinda and his wife, Iwa.

The festival said that Fujiko Hara, granddaughter of Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki, who helped donate the first 3,000 trees, and William H. Taft IV, great-grandson of the former president and first lady, will also be present.

The March 20-April 27 festival, chaired by the first lady, is currently celebrating the centennial of the blossoms. But because of the warm weather most of the delicate white blooms of the prized Yoshino cherry trees have already come and gone.

Monday is going to be the last official day of this year’s Yoshino bloom, said Robert DeFeo, the National Park Service’s chief cherry blossom expert. The nine-day bloom was one of the shortest on record, DeFeo said.

“There’s not much there,” he said.

The cause was the unusually mild temperatures, especially at night, he said.

But “this year may very well have been one of the nicest years I’ve ever witnessed,” he said. “Because everything came on so quick and so fast. Boom. ... They came on. They were just glorious and they were gone.”

Meanwhile, he said, the area’s bright pink Kwanzan cherry trees are just starting to bloom, he said.

Mike is a general assignment reporter who also covers Washington institutions and historical topics.


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