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

WASHINGTON — Stumpy, a scraggly Japanese cherry blossom tree whose few skinny branches flower every spring to the delight of residents and tourists alike, is on its last legs.

Arborists say Stumpy’s interior trunk is hollow, reason enough to place it among 158 trees scheduled to be cut down in coming months as part of a $113 million sea wall repair project near the National Mall prompted by climate change.

Ultimately, the National Park Service will remove about 300 of 3,700 trees that line the banks of the Tidal Basin reservoir between the Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorials to shore up sea walls lining the reservoir and the west Potomac River.

Stumpy’s profile rose in 2020 during the pandemic when a Reddit user posted a photo of it, likening its outwardly limp condition to his love life. The tree and the user’s story were circulated online, and Stumpy’s fame skyrocketed.
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.
“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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