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When UW cherry blossoms will reach peak bloom

By Vonnai Phair, The Seattle Times
Published: March 21, 2023, 7:43am

SEATTLE — The University of Washington’s cherry blossoms will burst into bunches of pale pink and white a little bit later than usual this year.

The 29 cherry trees in the Quad will reach peak bloom — when 70% of the buds have emerged — in early April this year, a few weeks later than their typical mid-March bloom, said UW arborist Sara Shores.

This year’s colder-than-usual start to meteorological spring “has delayed the blooms slightly,” Shores said, “but I don’t anticipate any damage to the blossoms as a result of the cold weather.”

Last week, the cherry trees in the Quad were mostly green buds and a few florets where the folded-up petals begin to emerge. The Quad’s two plum trees, which often are mistaken for cherry trees and bloom earlier than most cherries, have already started to bloom.

This week, the cherry trees will likely hit 10% bloom, meaning one in every 10 buds will have erupted in pink or white blossoms, UW said.

Once in peak bloom, cooler temperatures, less rain and lighter winds will help keep the blossoms on the trees.

The main species of cherry tree on the UW campus is Yoshino, including the 29 iconic trees in the Quad. The Yoshino cherry trees are nearly 90 years old and were originally planted at Washington Park Arboretum before the university transplanted the trees to the Quad in 1964, according to UW.

Outside the Quad, the university also has around 200 other types of cherry trees that bloom in groups across campus, including the Higan, Hisakura, Kwanzan, Mt. Fuji and Shirofugen varieties.

The university offers tips on how to distinguish cherry trees from plum trees: Cherry trees — unlike plum trees — have distinct horizontal-line patterns on their bark called lenticels. These help the trees “exhale” carbon dioxide and water.

Those who can’t make it in person can still see the blossoms on UW Video’s live webcam overlooking the Quad: st.news/treecam.

Across Seattle, the arrival of spring signals the blossoming of both cherry and plum trees, with blooms visible from early February until, for some species, May.

The Seattle Department of Transportation maintains an interactive map of trees across the city. To see if cherry trees are in your neighborhood, visit st.news/treemap, click “Explore Seattle’s Trees” in the navigation bar, then click “Street Trees by Type” and look for trees in the “prunus” genus, which includes cherry and plum trees.