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Cherry blossom tracking: Tidal Basin trees are already in the third bloom stage

A morning view at the Tidal Basin on March 4. Inset shows a close-up of the developing buds, and the background shows a wide view of the Tidal Basin with a cherry tree and the Jefferson Memorial. (Kevin Ambrose)
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To track the blossom bloom, every week I’ll post a photo of the cherry tree (above) at the Tidal Basin as we transition from winter to spring. This is the third week of such posts. Here’s the post from week one and the post from week two.

Based on what we’re seeing, the cherry trees at the Tidal Basin have reached the third stage of development. Yes, it’s still just the first week of March, but the majority of the trees were in the “florets extended” stage, the third stage out of six, as of Monday morning.

But in reality, there are vast differences in bud and blossom development occurring at the Tidal Basin right now. Some of the trees are in the early stages of bud development, while the older trees are already starting to bloom. We heard from the National Park Service yesterday that 20 percent were in “peduncle elongation” stage, which means peak bloom for those trees could occur as early as the end of this week.

Some cherry trees at the Tidal Basin may only be a week from peak bloom

It seems the extreme swings in temperature have put our beloved cherry blossoms on different timetables this year.

In order of appearance, the stages are:

  1. Green color in buds
  2. Florets visible
  3. Extension of florets
  4. Peduncle elongation
  5. Puffy white
  6. Peak bloom

In my 15 years of photographing the Tidal Basin, I’ve never seen so much difference in bud development among the cherry trees at one time. Our extreme temperature swings over the past month appear to have confused the trees. We are stuck in a roller coaster weather pattern that oscillates between winter and spring weather, and it seems to be keeping the cherry trees a little out of sync.

What does this mean for a peak bloom timetable? We’ll have to see how the warmer weather this week progresses the bud development. An extended warm spell could synchronize all of the trees into quickly blooming together, but it appears that the weather will turn cold again this weekend, which will slow the bloom. Ultimately, we’re still thinking March 15 to 19 is a good bet for peak bloom.

However, if you’re excited about seeing a few early-blooming cherry trees, or trees that are getting close to the bloom, you may want to head down to the Tidal Basin on Friday before the weather turns cold again. Buds should be starting to pop into blossoms on some of the trees.

But make sure you check back here throughout the week. By this weekend, we will have a better handle on the exact peak bloom date and we may also have some snow to discuss at the same time.

More cherry blossom coverage

Some cherry trees may be a week from peak bloom

Cherry blossom forecast: Peak bloom may be record early this year

Tracking the cherry blossoms to full bloom — Week one

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