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Despite storms, D.C. cherry blossoms to peak in early April

Rob DeFeo, National Park Service chief horticulturalist, said the cherry blossoms are expected to peak April 3-8. Rob DeFeo, National Park Service chief horticulturalist, said the cherry blossoms are expected to peak April 3-8. (Jacquelyn Martin/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / March 5, 2010

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WASHINGTON - The ground has been frozen under layers of snow. Daffodils are just now breaking the surface. The elm trees are two weeks late in starting to flower.

And Washington’s hallowed cherry blossoms?

A little banged up from the blizzards and wind and hampered by a lingering chill in the soil, but apparently not too far off schedule.

The National Park Service’s horticulturalist and cherry tree specialist, Rob DeFeo, issued his forecast yesterday for the peak bloom date. The trees are expected to bloom between March 31 and April 11, with the peak period expected to be April 3-8.

Unusually warm or cool weather has resulted in peak bloom dates as early as March 15, in 1990, and as late as April 18, in 1958, the Park Service said.

This year’s festival, which marks the 1912 gift to Washington of 3,000 cherry trees by the city of Tokyo, is set for March 27 through April 11. The annual parade and Japanese street festival are scheduled for April 10.

The festival brings in about a million visitors a year.

Whenever it peaks, this year’s bloom will be visually affected by two building projects: the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, where a tall construction fence has been erected amid the trees on the northwest rim of the Tidal Basin, and the Jefferson Memorial, where equipment to repair the sinking seawall on the south side of the basin is likely to mar the view for photographers.