The cherry trees at the Tidal Basin are nearing peak bloom, but a period of intensely cold weather on the heels of our recent nor’easter has endangered the bloom. Overnight temperatures in the low 20s will test the resilience of the developing blossoms. We’ll have to wait until later this week or weekend to assess the damage.
The majority of the cherry trees at the Tidal Basin are at stage four, peduncle elongation. At this stage, the blossoms can sustain minor damage with a temperature of 27 degrees and major damage with a temperature of 22 degrees or lower.
A few trees on the Tidal Basin, however, have developed beyond stage four and have reached full bloom, or are nearing full bloom. Blossoms that are fully developed are the most susceptible to damage from the cold temperatures.
To my knowledge, the cherry trees at the Tidal Basin have always reached peak bloom since they were planted in 1912. They have never been killed prematurely by a freeze. If the blossoms manage to survive the deep freeze this week, peak bloom should occur this weekend or early next week.
I began this series of photo posts four weeks ago to “track the bloom as we transition from winter to spring.” Ironically, I’ve been tracking the bloom as we transition from spring weather to winter weather.
With each passing week, my Tidal Basin photo shoots have been colder and more winterlike. Then on Monday night and Tuesday morning, four weeks into the series, we had our first significant winter storm of the season. I’ve waited all winter to photograph snow at the Tidal Basin, and it finally happened in mid-March, near the end of my Tidal Basin blossom series. What bizarre weather we’ve experienced for the past few months!
The Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off Wednesday with ice and snow on the ground and with some of the coldest weather we’ve experienced this winter. Wednesday morning, the temperature dropped to 22 degrees in D.C. with a stiff breeze. We expect similar temperature readings Thursday morning.
Will the cherry blossoms suffer the same fate as the frozen magnolia blooms? Can they survive the repetitive hard freezes? We should know the answer soon.
More cherry blossom coverage