Provides Breathtaking, Hassle-Free Cherry Blossom Viewing
February 26, 2004
Looking for an alternative to the
overcrowded views of Washington, D.C.'s famous display of cherry blossoms? Look
no further than the Agricultural Research
Service's U.S. National Arboretum.
The spring exuberance begins there in late February, when Japanese apricots
burst into bloom.
The arboretum is located in northeast Washington, a few miles from the Tidal
Basin that draws 600,000 visitors each springtime. The arboretum is an
excellent venue for catching the Capital area's beautiful cherry blossom
display in a relaxed, crowd-free setting. Its collection includes 135 cherry
trees and 76 varieties on display.
In 1999, the arboretum released the cherry variety Dreamcatcher, a
25-foot-tall deciduous vase-shaped tree with dark-green foliage. Last summer,
the arboretum released First Lady, a 25-foot-tall, upright tree with dark pink,
single, semi-pendulous flowers.
In 1912, Japan gave 3,000 Yoshino cherry trees to the United States as a
token of friendship. Today, only an estimated 125 of these trees are still
alive. Yoshino cherry trees live an average of 50 years, so the few remaining
original trees are at the end of their life expectancy. To prevent loss of this
historic plant germplasm, scientists from the arboretum took cuttings from
those cherries in 1997 and 1998. New trees grown from them will help the
National Park Service--which oversees the
Tidal Basin plantings--to maintain the genetic lineage of the original trees.
In addition to the cherry blossoms, visitors to the arboretum in springtime
will find subtle woodland wildflowers along the paths in Fern Valley, where
unfurling fern fronds, trillium and bloodroot can be seen. The fleeting flowers
of Oconee bells are a special treat. Then will come the blazing color of
azaleas, in April and May.
All this--and the famed Japanese bonsai at the arboretum's National Bonsai
and Penjing Museum--are good reasons to visit the arboretum when new leaves
begin to clothe the bare branches of the thousands of deciduous specimens in
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.