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A Rite of Spring: Cherry Blossoms in DC

April 15, 2013

Spring has finally sprung in DC! After unseasonably cold weather followed by a brief record-breaking heat wave, we’ve finally settled back into spring weather. With the heat came much-delayed flowers, including our famous cherry blossoms. There are flowering trees all over DC, but the ones around the Tidal Basin hold a special place in our collective heart. First, the landscape is just magnificent — oodles of trees crowned with fluffy pink flowers, nestled in and around some of our country’s most famous sites. Second, the trees were a gift to us from Japan, which has a long and lovely history of springtime cherry blossom festivities itself. Back in 1912, the mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, gave a gift of cherry trees to Washington DC.

Of course, this simple explanation belies a lot of behind the scenes work by many people, including Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, who would later become the first female board member of National Geographic, and Helen Taft wife of President Taft. It also ignores the fact that the first batch of trees Japanese officials sent us were diseased and had to be destroyed! Our cherry trees have a rich history, and much more can be found on the official NPS web page, but I’ll add one more great story. Because of World War II, the cherry trees along the Arakawa River in Tokyo were in bad shape by the 1950’s. In 1952, the Japanese government asked for help in restoring the area, and NPS sent budwood from the descendants of trees that originally came from that same grove in Tokyo! I love that story.

Viewing the cherry blossoms truly is one of my favorite DC rituals. The trees are beautiful, but it’s also wonderful seeing so many people out enjoying nature. True, it’s heavily managed nature (the cherry trees are quite needy), but nature nonetheless. Below are a few shots (courtesy of my phone, so sorry about the quality) documenting this year’s trip to the Tidal Basin.

Do you have any favorite springtime rituals?

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(c) MMD, 2013

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(c) MMD 2013

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(c) MMD, 2013

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(c) MMD, 2013

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