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Washington, D.C., cherry blossoms expected earlier than usual

March 01, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

Cherry blossom fans, plan for early pinkiness.

The 100-year-old Yoshino cherry trees that line the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., are expected to erupt in fragrant pink blossoms as early as March 22 and should reach their peak between March 24 and 31. It's a bit early, as the average peak bloom period is April 4.

The forecast came Thursday from Rob DeFeo, chief horticulturist at the National Park Service, who made the announcement during a press conference at the Newseum.

So what determines bloom time? DeFeo and his team have been monitoring the buds in five stages of development, according to the park service's website. Peak is defined as a time when at least 70% of the trees around the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial will be blooming.

About 3,000 trees were part of the original gift from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo in 1912 as a token of friendship between Japan and the U.S. Since then the number of trees has grown to about 3,750 of 16 varieties, according to the festival website.

Regardless of how long the blooms last (and the park service isn't sure yet how long bloom period will be), the National Cherry Blossom Festival 2012 runs from March 20 to April 27, with lots of events around the capital. The annual parade along Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th streets will be held 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. April 14. Katie Couric and Alex Trebek will co-host the event. 

Check out the full calendar of events that includes fireworks, musical performances, special museum days and more.

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