Beavering Away at the Cherry Blossom Festival

Beavering Away at the Cherry Blossom Festival
Credit: Mike Licht,

The Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) is a fast-growing, high-maintenance tree that must be pruned by trained arborists and protected from powdery mildew, aphids, spider mites, fungus, borers, and beavers. It produces no cherries, but for a few weeks each spring, before its leaves appear, it produces delicate, fragrant, white-and-pink blossoms. The Japanese Hanami (花見 lit. “flower viewing”) tradition encourages enjoying the beauty of the flowers and contemplating their fleeting loveliness as a metaphor for the fragility of life.

In keeping with this ancient introspective custom, Washington’s National Cherry Blossom Festival® parades brass bands, tap dancers, choirs, floats, balloons, and “fun mascots” down Yoshino-free Constitution Avenue, past the National Archives, Department of Justice, Smithsonian Museums, the Washington Monument and the White House. There were 342 cherry trees near the Washington Monument but they may have been replaced by bollards, and the National Bollard Festival® is later, in the fall.

Besides the parade, the National Cherry Blossom Festival® (March 29 to April 13, 2008) includes other activities derived from ancient Shinto tradition: the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, two beauty contests, the George Washington Invitational Regatta, the Cherry Blossom Rugby Tournament, congressional receptions, a film festival, and a charity golf tournament.

Way Cool logo of the 48th Annual Sakura Matsuri of the Japan-America Society of Washington DC

If you look hard enough you may find the Sakura Matsuri, a more Japanese-style festival, downtown, far from the cherry trees, on Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 10th Streets and 12th Street between Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues (hipsters: check out the J-Pop Stage). Traditional Sakura Matsuri are held elsewhere in the country, more-or-less following the season north. Cherry trees in Japan and America often blossom earlier these days due to urbanization as much as Global Warming.

The American or Canadian beaver (Castor canadensis) also enjoys cherry trees. The beaver, largest rodent in North America, likes to eat them. In 1999 a family of the furry, paddle-tailed critters celebrated Washington’s National Cherry Blossom Festival® by chewing down 14 of the Tidal Basin’s largest and oldest cherry trees before being caught and removed. Picking cherry blossoms or chewing the trees is against Federal law.

So enjoy this month’s Hanami. And watch for the National Cherry Blossom Festival® Tap Dance Team as they “shuffle-ball-change” in front of the National Archives for the TV cameras, a sure sign of spring in Washington.

Beavering Away at the Cherry Blossom Festival

Top Image by Mike Licht and the Canadian Defense Forces; download it free here (Creative Commons license; credit: Mike Licht,

Middle Image: Japan-America Society of Washington DC, 48th Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, April 12, 2008 (rain or shine).

Bottom Image: U.S. National Park Service.

9 Responses to “Beavering Away at the Cherry Blossom Festival”

  1. Beavers? What is this, TMZ? | Washington D.C. Metblogs Says:

    […] National Cherry Blossom Festival doesn’t kick off till the 29th of this month but Mike Licht has already put together more information than you thought there was to find about the upcoming bloo… Most notable (or is that notional?), to me anyway, is the article he scared up indicating that in […]

  2. Nylonthread Says:

    You forgot to mention that the trees also need to be protected from the tourists that tear limbs off the trees, stomp their roots to heck, and try to sit with their big ol’ arses on the branches to pose for pics. Sometimes it pains me to watch the carnage up close.

  3. Mike Licht Says:

    Nylonthread: I used the polite NPS link (“Please do not pick the blossoms. Picking the blossoms or branches of the historic trees is very damaging. Please respect the park and leave the blossoms for the next generation to enjoy too”) and Park Rangers often use these admonitions.

    Park Police will definitely bust blossom barbarians, so tell the guys on horseback if you witness outrages.

  4. Early Blossoms « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] Most of Washington’s Star Magnolias are in bloom, and the Yoshino Cherry trees on the southern sides of buildings and other warm, sheltered micro-climates have begun to flower. The National Park Service Cherry Blossom Web Cam link is not working yet, and no one has reported sighting that cherry tree connoisseur, Castor canadensis, the American or Canadian beaver. […]

  5. Hothouse Flowers « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] Japanese hanami (花見 lit. “flower viewing”) tradition encourages enjoying the beauty of the flowers and contemplating their fleeting loveliness as a […]

  6. Pink Poodles and Cherry Blossoms « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] have teased Washington for the brash quality of its Cherry Blossom activities, which include “The National […]

  7. Week In Review and News Forecast « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] An invasion of the District of Columbia by thundering yahoos who claim to be flower-fanciers; […]

  8. hi Says:


  9. DC Cherry Blossoms 2009 « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] will provide our customary seasonal coverage of  beaver attacks on Potomac cherry trees, the Japanese cherry blossom forecasting service, Cherry Blossom Webcam […]

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