This Day In History: The First Cherry Blossom Trees Were Planted In Washington, D.C. In 1912

Tourists enjoy blooming cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin with the Washington Monument in the background on March 31, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images)

Millions of delicate pink blossoms herald the coming of spring in the nation's capital, but the trees are not native to the region. In fact, beginning on March 27, 1912, they were deliberately planted after decades of lobbying.

Scidmore's Campaign

Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore was a woman ahead of her time. In the late 1800s, when most women were largely confined to the home, Scidmore was traveling the world as a writer and diplomat. In 1885, she visited Japan, became enamored with Japanese cherry blossom trees, and resolved to stop at nothing to get them planted along the waterfront in Washington, D.C., where she lived. It wasn't even clear if cherry blossom trees could grow in Washington, but after experimenting with them on his own property in nearby Maryland, Dr. David Fairchild of the U.S. Department of Agriculture joined Scidmore's crusade. With him on her side, she enlisted First Lady Helen Tuft, who had previously lived in the Japan, for fundraising services as well as the legendary visiting Japanese chemist who discovered both adrenaline and takadiastase, Dr. Takamine Jōkichi. Thanks to Takamine, the mayor of Tokyo gifted Washington with 2,000 cherry blossom trees.