Longtime Cherry Blossom Predictor Retires

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Cherry blossom trees on the Tidal Basin in February 2013. (credit: Kevin Patrick/All-News 99.1 WNEW)

Cherry blossom trees on the Tidal Basin in February 2013. (credit: Kevin Patrick/All-News 99.1 WNEW)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC)- The Cherry Blossom Festival is less than a month away but if you’re wondering when the trees will reach peak bloom, you’ll have to ask a different guy this year.

Rob DeFeo, the well-known National Park Service horticulturist who’s been making the annual prediction for more than two decades won’t be available this season. Part Punxsutawney Phil, part Lorax, DeFeo quietly retired after the 2012 festival. Historian James Perry will now assume that role.

Perry says he’ll rely on park arborists, some of whom are second generation cherry blossom watchers, to guide his first prediction. He notes that, ultimately, Mother Nature determines when the trees will bloom and how long those blooms will last.

While DeFeo is an institution, he’s not the first to predict peak bloom on the Tidal Basin. As Perry notes, the trees “are older than us in many senses.”

Cherry trees generally have a life span of about 20 to 30 years but with proper care they can live much longer. Japan gave D.C. thousands of cherry trees in 1912 and some of those original trees are still growing by the water.

So, when will they bloom? Perry will issue his prediction in early March.

WNEW’s Kevin Patrick contributed to this report. Follow him and WNEW on Twitter.

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