For DC residents, the blooming of the cherry blossom trees marks the unofficial beginning of spring. For outsiders, however, the history behind these beautiful pink trees is a bit less well-known. Here's some important history behind DC's most famous trees, plus some fun ways to see them throughout the season.
- The National Geographic Society’s first female board member, travel writer Eliza Scidmore, is almost entirely responsible for bringing the trees to DC. She saw the cherry blossom trees in their native Tokyo in 1885, and she loved them so much that she vowed to bring them to DC.
- Over the next 20 years, Scidmore tried tirelessly to bring the trees to DC. She made her case to an ally at the federal government’s newly established Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction, and that's when things started happening.
- First Lady Taft heard about Scidmore's efforts and soon began lobbying for the trees as well. With her support, the government was able to secure 90 trees to be shipped from Japan to DC in 1909.
- Soon after, the Japanese government decided to send thousands more cherry blossom trees as a gift to the US.
- When the trees arrived in 1910, they were infested with pests and had to be destroyed.
- Within two years, the Japanese sent a replacement batch of over 2,000 pest-free trees. The mayor of Tokyo even joked about the incident, saying: "Oh, I believe your first President set the example of destroying cherry trees, didn’t he?”
Cherry Blossom Events in DC
- National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade – One of the biggest events of the Festival, this huge parade runs for 10 blocks along iconic Constitution Avenue. (April 14)
- The Blossom Kite Festival – Expert and amateur flyers congregate around the Washington Monument on March 31 for competitions and casual flying.
Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler – This cherry blossom-centric run takes you past the Tidal Basin, around Hains Point, and over to the Washington Monument. (April 8)
Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival – This festival takes place after the official parade along Pennsylvania Avenue. It is the largest celebration of Japanese culture in the US. (April 14)