National Cherry Blossom Festival Fun Facts
Have a blooming good time at this spectacular annual festival, held each spring in Washington, D.C.
Photo By: Photo by Ron Blunt / Courtesy of National Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Trees and the Washington Monument
The National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates a gift of flowering cherry trees presented by the mayor of Tokyo City to Washington, D.C. in 1912. In Japan, the trees are esteemed as a symbol of the brevity and beauty of life.
National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Weeping Japanese cherry trees, Sargent cherry trees, and Usuzumi and Autumn Flowering cherry trees also grow in the festival area. Their pink and white blooms make a showy backdrop for the yearly parades, fireworks, and other events and activities.
Sunlight Through Cherry Trees
In 1885, Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, a board member of the National Geographic Society, suggested planting flowering cherry trees along the Potomac, but a donation from Japan didn't arrive until 1909. Unfortunately, those first 2,000 trees had to be destroyed due to disease and pest infestation. The replacement gift of healthy trees was made in 1912.
Cherry Trees and the Jefferson Memorial
About 1800 of the trees donated by Japan were the Somei-Yoshino variety. Most were planted around the Tidal Basin. Eventually, 11 other varieties, and the rest of the Yoshinos, were planted in East Potomac Park.
In 1965, Japan sent another 3800 Yoshino cherry trees to the wife of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, in recognition of her efforts to beautify America. Most of those trees were planted near the Washington Monument.
Colorful Cherry Trees
When the weather conditions are right, cherry trees can stay in bloom for two weeks. The colorful springtime show is at its peak when about 70% of the blossoms are open.
Kwanzan Cherry Blossoms
Today, most of the trees celebrated in the festival are Yoshino and Kwanzan varieties. Cherries live an average of 20 to 30 years, but about 100 of the original trees from Tokyo are still thriving around the Tidal Basin.
Cherry Blossoms Beginning to Open
Yoshino flowering cherries have single, white blossoms, while Kwanzans bear clusters of doubled, pink blooms. Kwanzans, named for a mountain in Japan, usually blossom about two weeks later than Yoshinos.
Cherry Blossoms at Night
Currently some 3,720 cherry trees grow near the Washington Monument, in East Potomac Park, and at the Tidal Basin. Visitors can get spectacular views of the monuments and trees on the two-mile walk around the Tidal Basin.
Yoshino Cherry Blooms
Each year, the festival reaches out to the community with its Neighborhood Tree Planting Program. The program has helped plants hundreds of trees, including a grove of 200 in Oxon Run Park in southeast Washington, D.C.
Reagan Building with Cherry Blooms
To help preserve their genetic line, approximately 120 trees propagated from the original trees were sent back to Japan in 2011. This return gift also symbolized the ongoing friendship between the two countries.
Walking Under the Cherry Trees
National Park Service employees maintain the cherry trees with regular pruning, watering, fertilizing, and treating for any pests and diseases. When the trees die, they're replaced with trees bought from commercial nurseries.
Cherry Blossoms Behind a Japanese Lantern
In 1954, a 300-year-old Japanese Stone Lantern was given to the City of Washington for the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace, Amity and Commerce between the U.S. and Japan. Every year, the festival officially opens with the lighting of the two-ton, granite lantern.