Washington DC’s cherry blossoms grab all the headlines in spring, but you don’t have to go to the nation’s capitol to soak in the experience of being surrounded by floating clouds of flowers. The best cherry blossom display in the Midwest is in St. Louis, right here at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
The Cherry Collection
The Garden’s living collection includes more than 150 cherry trees—representing more than 30 different species, cultivars, and hybrids. Along with the popular yoshino cherry, substantial plantings of weeping Higan cherry, the double-flowered Kanzan cherry, and cherry plum can be found throughout the Japanese Garden.
Weeping cherries (Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’) at the south end of the Flat Bridge. Photo by Cassidy Moody.
Cherry plums (Prunus cerasifera ‘Thundercloud’ surround the Plum Viewing Arbor. Photo by Cassidy Moody.
When is Peak Bloom?
The National Park Service defines peak bloom of the Washington DC cherries as having 70% of flowers open.
Typically, the Garden’s cherry collection hits its peak around the first week of April. However, a wide range of environmental factors can affect bloom time. Records kept by retired Garden Horticulturist Chip Tynan show a peak bloom can happen as early as March 23, or as late as April 17.
Based on the development of the buds and the forecast temperatures, we can usually predict peak bloom seven to ten days ahead. Keep an eye on Garden social media accounts for updates and coverage of the blooms, including the potential for special evening viewing hours during peak bloom.
A yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) blooms near the Drum Bridge. Photo by Tom Incrocci.
Rooted in History
The famous Washington DC cherry display began in 1912 with a gift of 3,020 trees from the people of Japan to the people of the United States. Nearly two thirds of those trees were yoshino cherries (Prunus x yedoensis) grown from cuttings taken from a famous grove in a suburb of Tokyo.
Of the 50 or so yoshino cherries at the Missouri Botanical Garden, 20 trace their lineage directly to the trees in Washington DC. Those trees were presented to the Garden in 2012 by the Consulate General of Japan as part of a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the original gift. Most of the Garden’s yoshino cherries can be found on Cherry Hill, overlooking the north shore of the lake in the Japanese Garden.
Cherry Hill full of Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) blooms. Photo by Cassidy Moody.
Cassidy Moody — Senior Digital Media Specialist