The National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington D.C. is getting ready to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its famous cherry trees, and Rob DeFeo, the National Park Service’s veteran blossom prognosticator, says that the trees will be at peak bloom just in time for the celebration.
DeFeo, speaking at the unofficial kickoff for the National Cherry Blossom Festival last week, said he expects peak bloom to occur between March 24th and 31st. Peak bloom is defined as the day on which 70 percent of the blossoms are open. This year’s festival starts on March 20th and runs through April 27th. DeFeo explained the bloom period starts a few days before the peak bloom date and can last up to ten days.
DeFeo is always the headliner at the annual kickoff. His annual predictions are eagerly anticipated throughout the DC area and beyond by the hundreds of thousands of visitors who are attracted to the nation’s capital to see the blossoming trees.
Unseasonably warm weather this winter has led to some concern that the bloom date would arrive before the festival. But the warm weather has little bearing on the bloom dates, DeFeo said.
“It really only matters as to what happens from now on,” he said. But, he quipped, “I can assure you, you're not going to see a late bloom.”
DeFeo, who has monitored the cherry trees for the past two decades, has only been wrong about the bloom dates on three occasions.
This year’s festival marks the centennial of the first planting of Japanese cherry trees on the Tidal Basin on March 27, 1912. The first trees were a gift of friendship from Tokyo to Washington.
The event this year should be one to remember, said Bob Vogel, the park’s superintendent.
“Our rangers are planning some exciting programs and our tree crews have planted hundreds of new cherry trees around the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and on the Washington Monument grounds, which will make the spring’s arrival in Washington more beautiful than ever.”