On This Day: First Cherry Trees Planted In D.C.

March 27, 2024

Since they had to plant something in that great stretch of raw, reclaimed ground by the river bank … they might as well plant the most beautiful thing in the world—the Japanese cherry tree.

Eliza Scidmore in a 1928 interview reflecting on why she advocated for cherry blossoms to be planted around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. A well-known traveler, reporter, author and photographer, Scidmore was the first to introduce the idea of planting flowering cherry trees in the nation’s capital.

Big Picture: Scidmore originally proposed the idea for cherry trees after seeing them on a trip to Japan in 1885, and on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Taft and Iwa Chinda, the wife of a Japanese Ambassador, planted the first cherry trees along the Tidal Basin in D.C. (upon learning of First Lady Taft’s plans to improve the Potomac Park in 1909, Scidmore told First Lady Taft that planting cherry trees in the area “would be a great showing … a rosy tunnel of interlaced branches.”) The first two trees were planted in a ceremony serving as a symbol of international friendship, and are still standing near the MLK Jr. Memorial where people eagerly welcome the blooms. The trees bloom for up to 14 days out of the year.

Read More: D.C. Cherry Blossoms History (SmartHER News)

by Emily Hooker, based in Texas