Washington DC’s Famed Cherry Trees On the Decline

Washington DC is famous for its rows and rows of cherry trees. They bloom each year in mid- to late-January and people come from far and wide the celebrate…there’s even a Cherry Blossom Festival in their honor! Washington’s most famous living monuments, however, are facing dire straits. They’re aging quickly but lawn maintenance professionals all across the country and figuring out ways to preserve the historic trees.

The cherry trees were a gift to the US from Japan in 1905, a thank you for help in a Japanese skirmish. President Taft was in office when the first tree was planted in 1912 and they’ve been thrilling the capital ever since. Though great care is being taken to preserve the trees that still live among the 3,000 or so cherry trees in DC, lawn professionals are having a hard time keeping them alive and say the problem is getting worse.

The specific species of tree in DC is known as the “Yoshino Cherry,” of which is an indeterminate percentage of other cherry species. Not all cherry trees are the same, in fact, as some blossom pink, others white, and some not at all. Proponents of the trees say it’s crucial to replace the ones that fail only with like-species, a task that’s proved difficult to say the least.

Efforts in recent years to actually clone the trees have been undergone in several labs to mixed success. As the trees were a gift from Japan, historians believe it’s important to keep them alive and authentic to continue the good will bond they were planted to endure.

Cherry trees are relatively hearty plants but even the healthiest are not known to live much more than 100 years. Their branches are thin and the trees are often seen in areas with extreme cold, of which DC is no exception. Excessive wind, rain, and admiring attention of tourists can all be contributing to the downfall of Washington’s crop.

Many homeowners plant cherry trees each spring. With over a dozen varietals it’s relatively easy to find a species suitable for any climate. Some cherry trees are known to have a distinct smell while other “dwarf” trees stay small and grow almost like bushes.

If you have a cherry tree in your yard it’s smart to use organic fertilizer at least once a year to keep it growing. Prune the tree regularly but be careful not to nick any new growth. And always consult a lawn maintenance company in your area if you suspect you need help.