‘Stumpy,’ a beloved Japanese cherry tree, makes its last bloom in Washington

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Much like the spindly Charlie Brown Christmas tree that sparked new life into a listless holiday season, the little tree that could has become a sort of Washington icon as the warmth of spring rekindles its sparse branches and pink flowers emerge.

As word about Stumpy’s fate has gotten out, many fans have made their way to the Tidal Basin to see it one last time. 

“In each succeeding year, we have seen more and more people come down asking for Stumpy, lining up to get pictures,” said Mike Litterst, a park service spokesman. “Of course, this year, it’s through the roof.”

Next month, the park service will take clippings from Stumpy and the other cherry trees scheduled for elimination and use them to grow more Stumpies and more of its less famous brethren. Then the dead trees will be turned to mulch that will be spread around those still standing on the National Mall. 

The cherry tree affectionally nicknamed 'Stumpy' in Washington, on March 18, 2024.
The cherry tree affectionally nicknamed “Stumpy” in Washington on Monday.Frank Thorp V / NBC News

“If we wanted to, we could have nothing but Stumpy clones, but we prefer the variety,” Litterst said. “So Stumpy and all the other trees that are coming down will at least, we think, have a beneficial and useful second life.”

Residents and tourists have flocked to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry trees in peak bloom this year, which hit the second-earliest peak bloom date on record on Sunday, and many are there to snap photos and pay tribute to the tree that stands alone, away from the other cherry trees. 

“[It’s] dead on the inside and alive on the outside,” tourist Amanda Lawson said with a laugh.

Emily Vickers, a photographer from Atlanta, has visited the Tidal Basin every year for the past decade just to see Stumpy.  

“I think with Stumpy, it’s almost like the ugly duckling, but it’s beautiful,” Vickers said. “It’s by itself, and it just stands out. I think when you look at the history of everything, it’s kind of magical, and it’s saddening that it’s going to be taken down.”


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