Early spring in Washington, D.C., is the time that thousands of locals and tourists come together to celebrate the city's famous cherry blossoms.
Washington, D.C., can be a partisan, opinionated, contentious place. Each spring, however, area residents and hundreds of thousands of tourists come together to show bipartisan support for one of the few things just about everyone here can agree on—the beauty of the city’s cherry blossoms.
The Japanese government gave more than three thousand flowering cherry trees to the people of the United States as a gift of friendship back in 1912, and the annual blossoming of pink petals is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. Some 1,800 trees line the Tidal Basin of the Potomac River, with more than a thousand other trees in eleven different varieties standing proudly at the White House and nearby East Potomac Park. The delicate flowers symbolize the transience of life, and area residents come to understand the appeal of this fleeting magic. The trees seem to go from peak bloom to piles of petals on the ground in the blink of an eye, and I know all too well how easy it is to miss the showy display.
This year, planners project the trees will reach peak bloom next week. To celebrate, a popular local blog, the Capital Weather Gang, recently shared historic photos of these majestic blooms from the Library of Congress, including one of my favorites of Peggy Townsend, the Cherry Blossom Queen of 1939.
Don’t try this pose nowadays, though—climbing in the trees could harm them and prevent robust future blooms. If you’re caught in the branches, you could even get a warning from a guy in a beaver costume.
More than a hundred years later, I’m happy to report these blooms are still a stunning part of our park system. Though you may need to fight through a crowd of a million people to get a glimpse of them, it’s worth it for a chance to see the timeless beauty of transience up-close and perfectly pink. For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/cherry/index.htm.
About the author
Jennifer Errick Managing Editor of Online Communications
Jennifer co-produces NPCA's podcast, The Secret Lives of Parks, and writes, edits and moderates online content.