Sunrise at the Tidal Basin with a cherry tree, Feb. 21, 2017. Inset shows a close-up of the developing buds, and the background shows a wide view of a cherry tree with the Jefferson Memorial. (Dennis Govoni and Kevin Ambrose)

Every week, I’ll post a photo of this cherry tree at the Tidal Basin as we transition from winter to spring to track the blossom bloom. It will be a periodic check-in to the status of the cherry trees. This is the first week of my posts.

Here we are in the last week of February — the last week of meteorological winter — and we have had springlike weather for weeks.

How do the cherry buds appear after our ridiculously warm winter? The answer is they appear brown and tight, perhaps a little more plump than usual for this time of year, but not close to blooming.

The weather for the next three or four weeks will determine the timing of the bloom on the Tidal Basin. Our warm winter weather only jump-started the bloom a small amount. The weather of early spring is what really sets the timetable for the bloom.


Cherry blossom buds over the Tidal Basin, Feb. 21. (Kevin Ambrose)

In case you have forgotten the cold and snow we experienced during late winter and early spring in recent years, let’s look back at some photos.

Shown below are photos that step back from 2016 to 2011, with the date the photo was taken and the date the cherry blossoms reached peak bloom that year. Note that I photographed the blossom buds in snow in many of those years between the dates of mid-February and late March.

Given the lack of cold weather and snow this winter, one would think the bloom should be ahead of schedule compared to recent years, right? Perhaps a little.

But, as mentioned above, an early bloom will occur only if the weather stays warm for the next few weeks. Long-range weather forecasts indicate that is possible. For reference, the earliest bloom on record at the Tidal Basin is March 15, 1990, and the average bloom date is April 4.

When do you think the cherry trees will reach peak bloom? Will it be a record early bloom?

Stay tuned for more updates as we track the bloom.


2016 : A snow- and ice-filled Tidal Basin on Presidents’ Day, Feb. 15, 2016. Peak bloom occurred March 25. (Kevin Ambrose)

2015 : Sunrise on a snow- and ice-covered Tidal Basin, March 7, 2015. Peak bloom occurred April 10. (Kevin Ambrose)

2014 : A heavy snowstorm covers the cherry trees, March 17, 2014. Peak bloom occurred April 10. (Kevin Ambrose)

2013 : A magnolia tree blooms with snow, March 25, 2013. Peak bloom occurred April 9. (Kevin Ambrose)

2012 : Snow at Monticello, Feb. 20, 2012. Peak bloom occurred March 20. (Kevin Ambrose)

2011 : Light snow with the cherry blossoms, March 27, 2011. Peak bloom occurred March 29. (Ian Livingston)

More cherry blossom coverage

The warmer winter means cherry blossoms will peak early

Tracking blossoms to full bloom — what a difference a year makes

All Capital Weather Gang cherry blossom posts