Cherry Blossoms Peak Bloom, And The Women Behind Them


Courtesy of Lonely Planet

By Carissa Remington

Washington D.C. is home to the most notable collection of cherry blossoms in the United States. This is because of the valiant efforts made by several women to create a long standing tradition for many residents, as well as travelers, to gather in spirit of the peak bloom season. 

The first two Yoshino Cherry Blossom trees were planted at the top of the Tidal Basin on March 27, 1912. How they came to be here traces back much further to 1885 when Mrs. Elizabeth Ruhamah Scidmore returned from a trip to Japan. At the time, Mrs. Scidmore was a traveler, writer, and diplomat. 

After having seen these marvelous trees, she began petitioning diplomats to install them on United States soil. Following numerous attempts, by 1909 Mrs. Scidmore wrote to Mrs. Taft, First Lady at the time, in an attempt to raise the money to donate cherry blossom trees to the city. April 8 the same year, Yukio Ozaki, Tokyo’s mayor, prompted a gift of two thousand cherry trees. 

It was discovered merely five days later that the trees had been misnamed and were rather a cultivar species. A second shipment of trees later arrived, but to everyone’s disappointment these trees were infested. President Taft, as a precautionary measure, ordered them to be burned. 

On March 26, 1912 a third shipment of 3,020 cherry trees of different variations arrived. The next day, Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted a couple of the Yoshino Cherry trees on a northern point of the Tidal Basin. 

Proceeding the years of trials and tribulations, the cherry trees’ yearly blooming have become an extravagant event. Many celebrations are hosted in honor of the friendship between Japan and the United States when these trees bloom each year. Peak bloom, when at least 70% of the blossoms are open, is highly anticipated. 

With March coming in like a lion, rain continuing through the first week, the cherry blossoms blooming have a chance of being short-lived. The National Park Service reported that harsh conditions of rain and wind can abruptly stop the blossoms. On the contrary though, cool and calm weather can prolong their blooming period. Each year, the National Park Service releases their prediction for when the peak bloom of trees on the Tidal Basin. For 2024, they are foreshadowing that the peak bloom will occur March 23 – March 26. 

A classic location to view the notorious trees is often the north-bank of the Tidal Basin itself, since it encompasses all of the historic context as well. It is often rated as the best place to see them. The National Mall is another popular spot that is frequented to enjoy the blossoms. Many other spots across D.C. do house similar trees as well. The Doyle Collection prepared a list of seven iconic places to view different varieties of the cherry blossom trees. 

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