As Spring cometh, it brings with it the beautiful Cherry Blossoms of DC (and allergy attacks). This weekend marks the last days of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
What many people may not realize is how relatively late these famous flowers bloomed this year. We saw their peak in the past few days (April 6-April 10), which is defined as when 70% or more of the Blossoms are blooming. The peak can last up to two weeks, and this year’s is the latest in recent memory. (Last year’s was on March 20, and the latest ever was on April 18, 1958). But why is this year’s so late?
Many of us understand that it is because of the cold spring that late blooming occurs — but many of us aren’t really sure why this is true. It is no secret to my close friends that chemistry is my favorite science, and it is precisely because every living thing is driven by it (including Cherry Blossoms). A general rule is that chemical reaction rates double for every increase in 18ºF, due to an increase in particle interaction. The blooms are driven by chemical reactions and are highly affected by temperature. Blooming times can even vary depending on where you are in the city.
Cherry trees are able to survive the unforgiving DC winters (unlike some of my SoCal friends) and are brought out of dormancy by rising temperatures. I’m sure you’re aware that our Spring weather hasn’t been very typical. But, there may be an upside to the delayed blooms! If a cherry blossom is exposed to high temperatures it will immediately bloom and last 4-5 days. However, prolonged colder temperatures may slow blooming times and nearly double the length of blooming times. Yay!
So get out there, Hoyas, and enjoy the last days of the Festival. See the beauty of science bloom right before you eyes.
Simply Science is a reoccurring post that aims to make recent scientific discoveries accessible and applicable to the Georgetown student.