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Cold Snap Impacts About Half Of National Mall's Dazzling Cherry Trees

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This week's cold snap damaged about half of the Yoshino cherry trees on the National Mall/NPS file photo

The National Park Service estimates that approximately half of the cherry blossoms on the Yoshino variety of trees have survived the recent cold snap, and will be emerging over the next week or so around the Tidal Basin, in East Potomac Park and on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The Yoshinos are the most abundant variety of cherry trees maintained by the National Park Service, making up approximately 70 percent of the total inventory.

Although the bitter cold temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week killed virtually all of the blossoms that had reached “puffy white,” (the fifth of six stages in the bloom cycle), blossoms from earlier stages forced open showed little if any damage, Park Service officials said Friday. The earliest stage affected by the cold were peduncle elongation (stage four), but only approximately 5 percent of those blossoms appear to show damage. As of last Friday, the day the cold weather set in, approximately 50 percent of the cherry trees were peduncle elongation or earlier in the bloom process.

Although peak bloom is now not expected to take place in the previously forecast window of March 19-22, projecting a specific date is difficult in the wake of the damage to so many emerging blossoms, the Park Service said. The weather models used to project the peak bloom (counting “heating degrees” based on daily temperatures after the trees reach winter dormancy), are no longer useful, as so many blossoms that would have been the first to bloom are dead. However, using historic data and the current forecasts, horticulturalists expect peak bloom is likely to occur sometime next weekend.

The 2017 National Cherry Blossom Festival opens on Saturday, March 18, and features four weeks with diverse and creative programs and events promoting traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty, and community spirit. National Park Service programming includes festival-related lantern walks; and ranger talks and tours around the Tidal Basin and National Mall.

National Park Service festival events will be held from March 18 through April 2, and are free of charge. Additional information is available at www.nps.gov/cherry and ww.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.

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