31 Facts You Must Know About the National Cherry Blossom Festival

Here are 31 facts about the cherry blossoms sure to impress your co-workers, friends, and out-of-town visitors.

1. In 1912, Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gave the city 3,000 cherry trees as a gift.

2. This was not the first gift from Ozaki. The first attempt to present the trees occurred in 1910. The 2,000 trees were diseased. They had to be burned.

3. Twelve varieties of trees were given to the United States. Now, only two dominate.

4. On March 27, 1912, FLOTUS Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda (wife of the Japanese ambassador) broke soil and planted the first trees.

5. The gift exchange wasn’t one-sided. In 1915, the United States gave Tokyo flowering dogwood trees.

6. A group of young students reenacting the planting occurred in 1927, effectively starting the “festival” tradition, despite the fact that the inaugural National Cherry Blossom Festival occurred in 1935.

7. In 1994, the festival expanded to two weeks.

8. The Festival was stretched to five weeks in 2012 to commemorate the Festival’s centennial anniversary.

9. In 1965, then-first lady “Lady Bird” Johnson accepted 3,800 Yoshino trees and planted them on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin, establishing it as the premier spot for the festival.

10. More than 1.5 million people make their way to the District for the festival.

11. The National Park has a Bloom Watch to predict prime blooming times.

12. The “Blooming Period” is the period in which 20 percent of the blooms are open.

13. There also is a live feed of the blooms.

14. The first Cherry Blossom Pageant was held in 1940.

15. A group of women chained themselves to the trees in 1938 to protest the cutting down of trees for the Jefferson Memorial.

16. As a compromise, more trees were planted on the southern side of the Basin.

17. Four trees were mysteriously cut down on December 11, 1941. Many believe it to be in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

18. Throughout World War II, the festival was suspended and the trees were referred to as “Oriental” flowering cherry trees. The festival was put back on in 1947.

19. The National Conference of State Societies started the Cherry Blossom Princess and U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen Program in 1948. The chosen Queen reigns over the festival.

20. There is a sorority for participants.

21. Here’s how to distinguish the two dominate kinds of trees. The Yoshino produces white blossoms, similar to clouds. The Kwanzan is pink bunches.

21. There’s an app for that. 

22. You can tie the knot under the blossoms. Contact the Office of Parks Programs (202-619-7225) for a permit.

23. The idea for the cherry blossoms preceded the initial planting. In 1885, Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore returned from Japan enamored with the trees and wanted to plant them among the Potomac River.

24. There is some pretty awesome cherry blossom merch available for purchase.

25. The Blossom Kite Festival, formerly the Smithsonian Kite Festival, was founded in 1967 by Paul E. Garber. Garber also founded the National Air and Space Museum.

26. This year’s Blossom Kite Festival will be held on March 29.

27. Events include kite battles and kite making.

28. Pollen allergies are such a problem in the District during the Festival that the Virginia Hospital Center has created this handy guide for sufferers.

29. The 2014 festival is the 102nd anniversary.

30. You can thank the Tree Crew at the National Capital Parks-Central for the arbor maintenance.

31. You can volunteer to be a part of the festivities.