Final Bloom Of Beloved “Stumpy” Cherry Tree Is National News

A symbol of resilience during the pandemic, Stumpy is being removed for a long-needed seawall rehabilitation. But its clones will be replanted!

Photo Credit: Kevin Ambrose via Credit Union Cherry Blossom facebook.

As landscapers and arborists, Turf readers know better than many just how sad it is—for our clients and for ourselves—when a beloved tree just can’t be saved. Such is the cycle-of-life story of “Stumpy,” a scraggly, yet resilient little cherry tree that won the hearts of many after a picture was shared of it valiantly clinging to the soil despite continual flooding of the National Mall Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial. Akin to the charm of the Peanuts comic Christmas tree, Stumpy became famous during the pandemic for its against-the-odds tenacity and miraculous blooming every Spring. The flooding, which occurs every day now at high tide, has been caused by rising sea levels in the Tidal Basin at West Potomac Park.

Stumpy became so beloved, the organizers of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile & 5K run, part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, declared 2024 “Year of Stumpy” in late February. “Runners face challenges each year, through training and life, but still continue to adapt and accomplish goals year after year,” said Event Director Phil Stewart. “Like them, Stumpy faces adversity and still blooms beautifully despite obstacles out of its control.”

Yet less than two weeks ago, the National Park Service announced it will be undertaking a $113 million rehabilitation of the seawalls around the Tidal Basin that will unfortunately require the removal of 158 of the nearly 3,700 Japanese flowering cherry trees on the National Mall—including Stumpy. According to news outlets, the Park Service has determined that poor Stumpy—already in a “mortality spiral” with rotting bark—is not well enough to survive a re-planting once the work is done. However, parts of Stumpy’s genetic material will be used by the National Arboretum to create “clones,” some of which will be replanted at the basin.

“This is a National Mall icon, a Washington D.C. celebrity, social media sensation, you know, but also a symbol of hope and perseverance,” said Piper Zettel, horticulturist with the Arboretum, in an interview with News4 Washington. “So, we are really thrilled to be a part of this project.” The removed trees will also be used as mulch to protect surviving trees. When the project is completed, 455 trees (including 274 cherry trees) will be replanted in the area.

The Credit Union Cherry Blossom mascot: Stumpy!

In the meantime, Stumpy is having a last hoorah as visitors flock to take selfies, leave messages, and honor its last flowering. Photographers at NPR caught beautiful moments of final visits to the little tree.

As for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile & 5K, declaring 2024 the “Year of Stumpy”  turned out to be prescient. Stewart stated, “This news makes 2024 the perfect year for us to celebrate Stumpy…  In true Stumpy fashion, his resiliency will be showcased once again as he will live on as the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile mascot.”

For more information, see:

Preserving The Endangered National Mall Tidal Basin

The Tide Is High

U.S. Coastal Sea-Levels Are Rising At An Accelerated Rate

Living Shorelines: A Way To Help Combat Hurricane Season?



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