WASHINGTON - The annual Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off this weekend throughout the nation’s capital, but the view won’t be the same as in years past.
For the first time in 105 years, nearly half of the Yoshino tree blossoms have been destroyed. Horticulturalists examined the trees and determined the fluctuation in temperatures, which have been as high as in the 80s and as low as in the 20s in recent weeks, interfered with the bloom.
“We have seen damage," said Mike Litterst, of the National Park Service. "We believe for the blossoms that were at the puffy white stage - that's the fifth of the six stages going forward - about 50 percent of the Yoshino trees were at the stage and it was almost a complete loss of those blossoms."
The blooming of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin has come to symbolize the natural beauty of the nation's capital city and attracts people from all over the world.
Gina Men arranged a trip for her friends from China in hopes it would coincide with the bloom, but that didn’t happen this year.
"I've been here before, and it's really beautiful so I wanted to bring my friends here to show them," said Men. Her friend said she was still glad to have visited the United States.
A festival committee representative said it does not appear tourism has been hurt by the late bloom. The National Park Service said first-time festivalgoers likely won’t even notice some of the cherry blossoms didn’t bloom.
But for a family that has been here before, it's noticeable.
"It's disappointing. The blossoms obviously are not blooming and it looks like they may not even - they are very dry to me,” said Christine Szymanski.
The view may get better for the festival, which runs through April 2. The National Park Service now expects peak bloom to be the weekend of March 25.
The cherry tree tradition dates back to 1912 when Japan gave the United States trees as a gift.
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