Washington, DC: A Special Celebration for Cherry Blossoms

By Vivienne Mackie

“Mirror, Mirror Near the Mall, Which Cherry is Fairest of All?”

Thus cleverly begins a short article in the latest Arbor Day newsletter, put out by www.arborday.org

As winter begins to wind down and people’s thoughts turn to spring and all things flowering, many especially will think of cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms are gorgeous anywhere in the world, but perhaps Japan is most famous for these delicate spring flowers, called Sakura. All our Japanese friends have regaled us with stories about Cherry-Blossom-Watching Parties. The meteorological service in Japan even tracks the blooming time from its start in the south of the country, until the final blossoms burst forth in the north in Hokkaido many weeks later.

In Washington, DC, cherry blossoms are also famous and very special. This year (2012) marks the 100th anniversary of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which will be held March 20-April 27, 2012. The mayor of Tokyo donated over 3,000 cherry trees to the US capital in 1912, as a reminder of international friendship. First Lady Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first 2 trees along the Tidal Basin’s northern bank. Amazingly, these 2 original trees are still growing there. Most of the original trees were Yoshino cherry trees, but other species were the Autumn Flowering and the Kwanzan.

The Arbor Day Foundation is inviting the public (for this year’s 100th anniversary, more than a million visitors are expected to attend the Festival and enjoy the tree-lined walks around the Tidal Basin) to vote for “America’s Favorite Flowering Cherry Tree.” There are around 3,750 cherry trees today. Most are Yoshino but there are at least 10-11 other species. The 3 finalists are the Yoshino, the Autumn Flowering, and the Kwanzan.  The (tree) winner will be announced on April 27, 2012, which is both National Arbor Day and the last day of the Cherry Blossom Festival.

For more information, to vote and to see pictures go to

www.arborday.org/cherry (I voted! Why don’t you?)

For more on the 100th Festival go to


***Thanks to my friend Hiroshi Miwa for these lovely pictures of cherry blossoms in the Kyoto area, Japan.