Snow Weighs On D.C.'s Famed Cherry Trees

Washington D.C.'s famous cherry trees are a favorite subject of artists and photographers. Tourists flock to the area to celebrate the delicate pink blossoms that usually peak in early April. But this year's heavy snowfall has damaged many of the trees just weeks before the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival opens.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

In addition to freezing traffic for days and days and days, this winters snowstorms here in the nations capital damaged a lot of cherry trees. Those are the trees that blossom and draw tourists in the spring.

NPRs Allison Keyes has an update just weeks before the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

ALLISON KEYES: Along the tidal basin near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial the carnage is jarring. The cherry trees look like theyve been in a fight. Many of them are nursing open wounds where branches have split in two and some have lost their canopies - the top of the trees where the blossoms dance lightly in the breeze. Broken branches litter snow-stained sepia by the soil.

Mr. MATT BARBER: You know, its too bad.

KEYES: Matt Barber(ph), visiting from Utah, is a bit stunned.

Mr. BARBER: Really surprised. I was thinking - I know because Im shorter -but, you know, theyll all come down across the trail.

KEYES: Even in winter people have to duck the low hanging branches, but not today.

Mr. BARBER: They have got a lot of work to do.

KEYES: They, meaning the National Park Service, have already started pruning the trimming the damaged trees. Pamela Starzenger(ph) visiting Washington from Oregon is philosophical about the matter.

Ms. PAMELA STARZENGER: Theyre absolutely beautiful. Its just awe inspiring, and it is sad that they have taken such a toll, but it is nature.

KEYES: Her sister, Rene Jaffer(ph), just spent 10 years in Japan, which gave 3000 of the beloved to Washington 98 years ago. She thinks the trees will bounce back.

Ms. RENE JAFFER: They go through the same thing. You know, they get a bad winter and some of them break off - but kind of what they symbolize, spring always comes.

KEYES: It seems she's right. Even with the damage, there are plenty of buds on the trees.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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