When you think of late winter, you might think any flowers to be found are inside the Conservatory. However, a number of plants in our outdoor gardens bloom in late winter.
The first every year attracts a lot of attention, Another species in the same Prunus genus as D.C.'s famous flowering cherries, the Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) excites many visitors. The U.S. Botanic Garden has two Prunus mume 'Matsubara Red' trees in the Terrace Gardens. These small trees always bloom about a month before the flowering cherries found along the National Mall and Tidal Basin.
This year, the flowers on the two trees began blooming a week or two earlier than usual -- in late January. By the end of January, several flowers were already fully open.
Many locals make a trip every year to enjoy these earliest of blooms, and many shared photos from their visit with us on social media.
The early flowers attracted a number of bees looking for a food source in late winter and even withstood a dip in temperatures below freezing.
Temperatures did not stay below freezing, with many days reaching 60 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. On February 23, the weather was more spring/summer-like, with a temperature of 81 degrees.
With the sunny, warm weather, the downy shadblow / serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) was noted to be blooming early. The small tree is native to eastern and central North America. This native tree grows to 15-25 feet tall, is winter hardy to USDA zones 4-9, and grows in full sun to part shade.
The flowers lead to dark purple-black, edible berries in early summer, providing another common name of Juneberry. The berries are jams, jellies, and pies. Visitors can find multiple of these in our Regional Garden that showcases native plants.
Warmer winter temperatures can bring earlier flowers, but dips back into freezing temperatures can damage early blooms and mean fewer flowers later in spring. Look for these and other flowers in late winter on your next visit.