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Meet Stumpy, the cherry blossom tree stealing hearts by striving through the thick and thin

The cherry blossom tree, nicknamed 'Stumpy' by Washington, D.C. residents, went viral in 2020 after someone posted a photo of the tree.

Meet Stumpy, the cherry blossom tree stealing hearts by striving through the thick and thin
Cover Image Source: Reddit / u/BeetleJuice3xs

Cherry blossoms are known to be a Japanese phenomenon, but who knew a little cherry tree on the southeast portion of the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial has officially reached its peak bloom? The tree, nicknamed "Stumpy" by Washington, D.C. residents, went viral in 2020 after someone posted a photo of him to the r/washingtondc subreddit. "This tree a little away from Jefferson memorial is as dead as my love life, but I love it!" reads the post. The account has since been deleted, but a follow-up thread by a different user captured Stumpy's resilience as it starts to produce lush pink flower petals. According to NBC Washington, other Stumpy fans posted progress photos of the tree that bloomed three years back. 

Mike Litterst, the chief of communications for the National Park Service, explained how Stumpy ended up as threadbare as he is. Litterst said that the tides cause a water overflow in the protective seawall in the southeast part of the Tidal Basin, weakening the trees and their roots. "Too much water on a tree's roots can be just as damaging as too little," Litterst added. "Excess soil moisture can reduce oxygen in the soil, damage fine root hairs, and render the root system unable to absorb water." Flooding can cause "leaf-scorch," a process in which the leaves of a tree turn brown and eventually die. An overflow in this part of the Tidal Basin means Stumpy has shorter longevity. 


"While we don't have any projections about how long this tree will be able to survive... eventually the constant water will take its toll and the tree will die (or we will remove it, as was done with a dozen or so other trees in that area a few years ago)," Litterst said. Online fans of Stumpy suggest he must be replanted somewhere, but Litterst said it is too late. "We would probably do far more damage to it if we tried to move it than if we just allow it to remain in place," Litterst said. The seawalls in that area have started their repair, and when it is completed, the dead trees will be replaced. However, Stumpy has overcome the sands of time and is still blooming. "As the blossoms show, Stumpy is not just surviving. Stumpy is thriving," Litterst said.

Redditor (u/poirotoro), commented on Stumpy’s forlorn appearance saying, “You know what that old tree is doing? It’s best.” Stumpy — part of the 3,200 Japanese Cherry Trees donated to the United States in 1912 continues to blossom gracefully, according to National Park Service. In 1885, Mrs. Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore was a world traveler, writer, and diplomat, as well as National Geographic's first female writer and board member. After returning to the United States from her Japan trip, "she developed a great appreciation for the Japanese people, culture, and the beauty of the Japanese flowering cherry trees." It was Scidmore who proposed the idea of planting cherry trees along the reclaimed Potomac waterfront. She began campaigning to make her vision a reality, but it was met with skepticism by the U.S. Army Superintendent. It was only in 1908, nearly 24 years later, that Scidmore succeeded.



Stumpy and his cherry friends around D.C. were blossoming pink petals on March 7, 2023. The NPS predicted the blossoms' peak bloom to happen between March 22 and 25. According to NBC Washington, peak blossoms are when 70% of the Yoshino cherry trees along the Tidal Basin have bloomed. The National Cherry Blossom Festival began earlier this month and will run through April 16. It celebrates two of the festival's signature events: the opening ceremony and the Blossom Kite Festival on the Washington Monument grounds. The organizers recommend taking public transportation because of the limited parking at the Tidal Basin.

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