Washington's Cherry Trees Bloom in Eastern "Heat Wave"

Cherry blossoms are popping near the Washington Monument. (Photo: Matt Beinart)
Cherry blossoms are popping near the Washington Monument. (Photo: Matt Beinart)

WASHINGTON—D.C. in December brings to mind snowy days, the National Christmas tree lighting—and cherry blossoms?

Yes, they're in bloom.

National Parks Service spokesperson Mike Litterst attributed the phenomenon to a species of tree called the autumn flowering cherry in the area, which have the potential to blossom during warm periods in late November and early December.

"It doesn't necessarily happen every year, but an early patch of warm weather will bring them out," Litterst said. "It is sporadic, but totally natural."

The average December high temperature in the nation's capital is 47 degrees and the average low is 33, but the last week has seen two days above 60 with temperatures this weekend expected to reach 70, according to The Weather Channel.

"This type of weather becomes the norm when there is a strong El Niño like there is this year," said Dale Allen, an associate research scientist with the University of Maryland's Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Department.

Allen considers the anomalous cherry blossoming to be in line with the typical Mid-Atlantic weather patterns associated with an El Niño, which are characterized by mild early December temperatures and no snow fall.

The Autumn Flowering Cherry trees are most prominent near the Tidal Basin and around the Washington Monument.

Litterst said the cherry trees' late-year bloom will not have any impact on their blossoming again in the spring.

"It's a little holiday bonus of color in the nation's capital," he said.

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