After months of dreary weather and bare branches, it’s finally cherry blossom season in New York City.
This means that more than 40,000 ornamental cherry trees around the city will be bursting with white and pink petals for the next month, drawing thousands of people outside to enjoy them.
Here’s an overview of what kind of cherry blossoms you can find in New York City, when they’ll be in bloom and where you can find them.
When is peak cherry blossom season?
Once a tree starts blooming, it’ll hold its blossoms for about 10 days. But when, exactly, each tree begins to flower depends on a mix of daylight and temperature, which is hard to predict. Most of New York’s cherry trees are in bloom by mid-April, though certain types bud a bit earlier or later.
Elizabeth Peters, the director of digital media at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, said that her team updates its CherryWatch tracker by checking each cherry tree in the morning to determine whether it’s in prebloom, first bloom (when about 10 percent of its flowers are open) , peak bloom (when about half of its flowers are open) or post-peak bloom (when about 10 percent of the blooms are left).
“Every time a friend asks me about CherryWatch, like, ‘Oh, when is peak bloom,’ I don’t like that question,” she said. “It’s not like we’re waiting for that moment where the largest number of trees are blooming, because each moment is special.”
The earliest trees usually start blooming when there’s a stretch of 60-degree days, Ms. Peters said, but having a bit of cold weather after first bloom can make the flowers last longer.
“If a tree blooms and then we have something like we’re having now, where the weather goes back to cooler weather, it kind of refrigerates the trees and preserves the blossoms for people to enjoy for longer,” Ms. Peters said.
“We’ve had years where we suddenly have a heat wave and the trees can go into full blossom pretty much overnight, and then five days later they’re losing their petals,” she added.
What kinds of cherry trees can be found in New York?
There are 26 types of flowering cherry trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden alone, but the New York City Parks Department said that across the city, the three most common types are the Okame, Yoshino and Kwanzan.
The pink-flowered Okame usually begins blooming in late March, but the Yoshino (which has white flowers) and the Kwanzan (which is pink and can produce up to 28 petals on each blossom) may still have flowers in late April or early May.
Jennifer Greenfeld, an assistant commissioner for the Parks Department, said that it takes care of thousands of ornamental cherry trees.
“They’re really great trees, because they don’t get super high and you can plant them under utility lines,” Ms. Greenfeld said. “We actually have these long term contracts with nurseries that grow these trees specially for us in New York City.”
Though the branches of cherry trees naturally hang low, which wouldn’t be suitable for city streets, certain nurseries train the trees’ branches to grow higher.
Where are the best places to see cherry blossoms in New York City?
By filtering for “’Cultivar’ Japanese Flowering Cherry” on the Parks Department’s New York City Street Tree Map, you can see the exact locations of thousands of cherry trees.
Sakura Park, in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, got its name from the 2,000 cherry trees that were sent to New York City’s parks from Japan in 1912. Nearby, the Riverside Park Cherry Walk has cherry trees that run alongside the path from 100th Street to 125th Street, and Marcus Garvey Parkin Harlem, has a smaller walkway of cherry trees near the entrance on 5th Avenue and 124th Street.
Most of the cherry trees in Central Park are found between 72nd Street and 96th Street. There are 35 Yoshino trees on the East Side of the Central Park Reservoir (and plenty of pink cherry trees on the West Side), and the park has lots of other popular spots — including Cherry Hill, Pilgrim Hill, the Great Lawn and Cedar Hill — listed on its website.
Downtown, there are usually late blooming Kwanzan trees in Union Square and Madison Square Park (where you can also spot one Yoshino tree along 5th Avenue), and several Yoshino trees that bloom in Washington Square Park.
In the Bronx, the New York Botanical Garden has more than 200 cherry trees on its grounds, including a row of the pink weeping variety near the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. The garden’s Spring Bloom Tracker shows the current status of cherry blossoms, magnolias, daffodils, azaleas, peonies, lilacs and roses. Pelham Bay Park also has Yoshino cherry trees near the City Island Bridge.
Randalls Island is having a Cherry Blossom Festival on May 1, but the trees will be in bloom before then near the island’s Urban Farm and Fields 62 and 63. Roosevelt Islandbetween Manhattan and Queens, has its own collection of cherry trees that can be seen along the island’s West Promenade.
The Queens Botanical Garden has ornamental trees in its Cherry Circle, and Astoria’s Rainey Park has its own collection of Okame and Kwanzan cherry blossoms by the East River.
In Brooklyn, Green-Wood Cemetery has a collection of 172 cherry trees, and will be having its Hanami Festival (which translates to “flower viewing”) on April 20. Smaller spectacles can also be found in Prospect Park (near the Grand Army Plaza entrance), Bushwick’s Maria Hernandez Park and Sunset Park.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has more than 200 cherry trees, 76 of which can be found lining its famous Cherry Esplanade. Though its annual Sakura Matsuri festival — which used to draw up to 50,000 people over the course of a weekend — has been canceled for a third straight year because of the pandemic, the garden has extended hours and has spread cherry blossom-related programming over three weekends. (Elizabeth Reina-Longoria, the director of marketing and communications for the garden, said there will be free community tickets available to the public throughout cherry blossom season.)
Staten Island has trees spread out throughout Conference House Park and Clove Lakes Park. There are also trees on the northern side of the lake in Silver Lake Park and along Cottage Row at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. (You can use the Parks Department’s Staten Island Bloom Guide to find out when some of these trees will be blossoming.)
And if you’re up for a trip to New Jersey, the Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival is happening at Branch Brook Park in Newark, NJ, from April 2 to 10. There, people can see 5,000 cherry trees — one of the largest collections in the United States.
With this all said, if you miss some (or all) of the blossoms, don’t sweat it. Ms. Peters, from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, said that cherry blossoms are only the start of a magnificent season.
“People love the cherries because it gives us all something to celebrate,” she said. “But this year in particular, we’re trying to showcase our many other blooms, because there’s a lot more to love about spring than just the cherries.”