The Cherry Blossoms in DC

Life is short

like the three-day glory

of the cherry blossom 

These are the glory days. There are over 3,700 cherry trees around DC’s Tidal Basin. Most of them are Yoshino cherries (Prunus x yedoensis), renown for their tangles of single, white flowers, each one a simple star of five petals. On peak bloom dates, 70% of all Yoshino blossoms open, a fleeting feast of several days.

Jefferson Memorial and cherry blossoms, DC

The Jefferson Memorial just after dawn

The sensation of wandering under this canopy on a sunny morning is remarkable. The light tastes silky-pink, the world around seems brighter, softer, fresher. There is an aroma in the air that’s hard to pinpoint. It is subtle, yet irrevocably there. Almonds? A hint of peach?

Cherry Blossoms against Jefferson Memorial

Cherry Blossoms up close, Tidal Basin, Washington, DC

We arrived a bit later than planned,  the last accords of the sunrise barely perceptible.  The city around was already awake, huffing, sneezing, honking into its weekday. The Tidal Basin hummed with activity. It was still too early for major tourist inflow, but there were  joggers, people stopping by on their way to work, locals herding out-of-town visitors, picnickers, and photographers–a small, intense, multilingual army of photographers, vying for “THAT shot.” Watching the spectators was almost as enjoyable as the spectacle itself.

Photographing the cherry blossoms, Tidal Basin, Washington, DC

Photographing cherry blossoms, Washington DC

Cherry blossoms, Tidal Basin, Washington

Boy and father with cherries on Tidal Basin

Tourists taking pictures of cherry blossoms, Tidal Basin, Washington, DC

Starling in cherry tree, Tidal Basin, Washington DC

The charismatic fauna on the Tidal Basin, starlings are building nests in old trees’ hollows

Fishing at Tidal Basin, Cherry Blossoms in DCFishing at Tidal Basin, Cherry Blossoms in DC

Fish from Tidal Basin, Cherry Blossoms, DC

(It was catch and release)

Cherry blossoms at Tidal Basin, Washington DC

Photographing the cherry blossoms in Washington DC

My favorite part of the Basin is its southwestern reach, between the Jefferson and the MLK Memorials. We usually try to park along Ohio Drive, the road that traces the Potomac, and enter the Basin grounds by the George Mason Memorial.

Tidal Basin map, Washington, DC

I think the trees in that area are older, more gnarled and interesting, and the curved alleys and rustling waterfalls of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial are so inviting.

Cherry blossoms by FDR memorial

Man walking among cherry blossoms, Tidal Basin, Washington DC Man walking among cherry blossoms, Tidal Basin, Washington DC

Japanese Pagoda, Cherry Blossoms around Tidal Basin, Washington, DC

The 17-century Japanese Pagoda by the entrance to the FDR Memorial: the gilded plaque at its base reads, “May this pagoda symbolize the spirit of friendship between the United States of America and Japan manifested in the treaty of peace, amity and commerce, signed at Yokohama in March 31, 1854, by the plenipotentiaries of the two countries” 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, DC

In one of “the rooms” of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

The FDR Memorial is my favorite of the presidential pantheons in DC. Water is the essential ingredient of its design. I think the man-made waterfalls began flowing around 8 am as we strolled along the Basin. It really is worth lingering for. So what’s with all the water? From the memorial’s webpage:

“Water was an important aspect of President Roosevelt’s life. As a young man growing up along New York State’s Hudson River, he enjoyed swimming and sailing. During the First World War, he served as Assistant Secretary of the United States Navy. Following his polio diagnosis, he established the Warm Springs Institute in Georgia to help rehabilitate others combating the same disease. As president, FDR pushed for the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and supported other water power projects. So, this theme was incorporated into his memorial.”

National Japanese American Monument, DCAs much as I enjoy this memorial, I think, a visit here is incomplete without also seeing the National Japanese American Memorial, located on Louisiana Avenue, several blocks  from the U.S. Capitol.  On February 19, 1942, 73 days after the United States entered World War II, Roosevelt issued executive order 9066, which resulted in the relocation of 120,000 Japanese Americans in the Western states and Hawaii. Allowed to keep only what they could carry, these men, women, and children were taken to remote internment centers, guarded by armed troops and surrounded by barbed wire fences, where some stayed into 1946. Together with the Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon across the street, the National Japanese American Memorial is spectacular at peak cherry bloom (these trees usually peak three to four days before those around the Tidal Basin), and is a moving place to visit.

But–back to the Basin. Here are some parting images to hold you over until next year:

Taking pictures of cherry blossoms, Tidal Basin, DC

Cherry blossoms, Tidal Basin, Washington, DC

Tidal Basin at cherry blossoms, Washington DC

Cherry blossoms at Tidal Basin at Washington, DC

More about cherry blossoms:

Wisteria season (late April):

Waterlilies and lotus blooms (June/July):

Spring posts:

21 thoughts on “The Cherry Blossoms in DC

  1. I agree, taking pictures of other people taking pictures can be wildly amusing… especially at really touristy spots like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, where everyone has the same *brilliant idea* for the same pose. 🙂 You got some gorgeous shots… love the one of the catch-and-release fisherman.

    • Thank you! In perennially touristy places like this, you either learn to appreciate the crowds or have a meltdown. Haven’t yet seen that particular Leaning Tower “in person”, but I know exactly what you mean.

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  5. Great pictures and very nice post. Love the Cherry Blossoms. Wish I lived closer to DC to get to see them one day but glad I can see them (almost as good as in person) on your site.

  6. Have to say your photos are exquisite! I am in the frozen Tundra of New Hampshire and our daffodils have just started blooming. Must be a wonderful sensation to be surrounded by blooms!

    • You are very kind. I am sorry that your spring is so slow to arrive. This was an odd year for us too–lots of “stop and go” weather. I hope blooms will reach you soon. Once they begin, there is no way stopping them!

  7. Love the DC cherry blossoms. I was blessed to be in DC about 3 years ago on our way to airport for departure to Ireland. The blossoms were in bloom and it was breath-taking! Thanks for the re-visit through your lens!

    • What a treat–I love stumbling on something extraordinary “on my way” somewhere. I am glad your memories were so positive. Even with all the crowds, I always enjoy our cherry blooms (and am surprised each year at just how much!).

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