Cherry Blossoms, Close By


cherry blossoms, in full bloomHere in Washington, D.C., we love our cherry trees. The cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin, near the Jefferson Memorial, get all the attention. And they deserve it–they’re lovely. This year, peak bloom was an elusive creature. February was so unseasonably warm that the Park Service predicted peak bloom would come March 14 or 15, one of the earliest dates ever–but then it got colder, snow and ice came, and everyone fretted over whether the cherries would make it through at all.

I never made it down to see the famous flowers this year, but never fear. Next to a parking lot near my apartment are a line of scrawny pavement trees, and a few of them are cherries.

On March 8, here’s what the last scrawny parking lot tree in the line looked like.

Let’s get a little closer. This is one cluster of buds on the morning of Wednesday, March 8.

On March 16, the tree had been walloped with snow and ice. There was much alarm for the fate of the cherry trees…but as far as I could tell, in my neighborhood, things looked like they were progressing. I found the same cluster of buds again. From under last week’s little green tips, brown bits had emerged, with the tiniest hint of pink petals hiding beneath. (My vague knowledge of flowers suggests that some of these bits might be “bracts” and some might be “sepals” but I’m not going to guess which are which.)

On March 18, more pink was showing. The ice did wipe out a lot of the blossoms at the Tidal Basin, but out here, my tree seemed to be making it.

On March 20, there was even more pink.

Peak bloom came for the Tidal Basin trees on March 25, when I was out of town. I imagine it was a little later here in the suburbs. By March 30, all of those buds had sprung open with perfect petals, revealing their pollen and stamen to the bees that were buzzing around. (Bees not pictured–you’ll have to take my word for it.) The picture at the top of this post was taken on this day.

Cherry blossoms only last a few days. On April 3, that cluster of stems only had a few petals left. The wind was catching the others and carrying them away, like a spring snow.

On April 5, even fewer petals hung on. 

Yesterday morning, it was stems and leaves…and a few not-particularly-tantalizing fruits.

Every year it’s exciting and beautiful, and every year it’s gone so fast. Now the redbud are flowering gloriously all over and the ospreys are back. Soon it will be summer again.

Photos: Helen Fields. My brother gave me a macro lens that clips onto my phone for Christmas. 

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