The cherry blossoms are on the verge of springing to life in Washington, D.C., and these fresh blooms offer the perfect frame for some of the nation's most historic buildings — like the Jefferson Memorial, seen in the photo above at sunrise.
The first trees were planted on the Tidal Basin by first lady Helen Taft and Japanese Viscountess Iwa Chinda in 1912, symbolizing friendship between the two countries. Thousands more cover the National Mall and Memorial Parks as a gift from Japan.
The peak blooming season of these delicate flowers in D.C. traditionally falls in early or mid-April, but while that has always varied from year to year, it's also moving earlier over time due to climate change. Based on 96 years of data, the Washington cherry blossoms reach their peak on April 4 in an average year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which notes the peak is defined as the day when 70% of blossoms are in full bloom. Since 1921, peak bloom dates for Washington's cherry trees have shifted earlier by about five days, the EPA adds, driven largely by warmer temperatures in winter and early spring.
In 2020, the National Park Service predicts the capital's cherry-blossom show will peak from March 27 to 30.
The blooms are lovely — but short-lived. Take a visual tour of this beautiful perspective of the nation's capital:
The Washington Monument stands tall behind the cherry trees near the Tidal Basin.
The U.S. Capitol building is surrounded by Yoshino cherry trees.
Rowers enjoy an early practice along the Potomac River.
Editor's note: This file has been updated since it was originally published in April 2014.