WASHINGTON - After nights in a row of bitterly cold temperatures, the National Park Service says horticulturists examining the trees have found widespread damage in cherry blossoms that have reached an advanced stage in the bloom cycle.
"The cold weather that we've had over the last couple of days, a little bit due to the snow before that, has caused some damage to the blossoms," said Mike Litterst of the National Park Service.
Litterst says that the cherry blossoms go through six stages before reach peak bloom and about 50 percent of the blossoms that have reached the "puffy white" stage have been damaged. “The ones that reached that stage - the "puffy white" stage - they’ve emerge - their petals are out - the white is there. Their the most susceptible to damage and we're seeing that as we visit the trees every day,” he said.
Peak bloom is defined as the day when 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry trees around the city's Tidal Basin are blossoming. “So what we're probably looking at - hopefully - as we emerge from this cold snap in the next day or two is to get back to seasonal temperatures, we'll get back to warming, and we'll work our way back towards peak bloom,” Litterst said.
Temperatures submerged to dangerous levels for the blossoms overnight Tuesday and dropped to 24 degrees or below Wednesday morning. Temperatures are expected to drop again for the next two evenings.
Horticulturists have taken cuttings of branches with blossoms at earlier stages and will force them open over the next two days to determine whether they're damaged or not. Litterst said that the peak bloom window is still in place - it may just involve fewer tress this year. He also said a different variety of trees will bloom later in April.
Litterst said that while the blossoms may have been damaged this year, the trees have not been damaged.