Washington DC’s beloved cherry tree Stumpy among 300 trees set to be chopped down

A National Park Service spokesman says impacted cherry trees will have a ‘good second life’

Olivia Hebert
Los Angeles
Monday 25 March 2024 23:36 GMT
Cherry blossoms reach early peak bloom in Washington, DC

Washington DC’s beloved cherry tree Stumpy is set to be chopped down.

As part of a multiyear restoration to replace the crumbling seawall around the Tidal Basin, an area surrounding the Jefferson Memorial that famously has a high concentration of cherry trees, social media phenom - the weathered cherry tree Stumpy - will reportedly be cut down along with 140 other cherry trees.

Crews are expected to begin the chopping process starting in early summer so that the seawall deterioration can be repaired to prevent water from the Potomac River from surging over the barrier at least twice a day. According to the Potomac Climate Report, rising water levels can be attributed to climate change, with the Potomac having risen 11 inches in the last century alone, which is more than the global average.

The project will reportedly cost $133m and take at least 3 years to finish, according to Mike Litterst, the National Park Service spokesman for the National Mall.

“It’s certainly going to benefit the visitor experience, and that’s very important to us,” Mr Litterst explained to The Associated Press. “But most of all, it’s going to benefit the cherry trees, who right now are every day, twice a day, seeing their roots inundated with the brackish water of the Tidal Basin.”

Litterst noted that numerous trees have been lost due to surges from the Potomac, noting that 100 yards worth of cherry trees near the seawall have been lost. He added that “until we fix the underlying cause of what killed them in the first place,” the cherry trees cannot be replaced.

In all its gnarled glory, popular cherry tree Stumpy has survived the surges, albeit with a few battle scars along the way. Stumpy is among the 300 trees - including 140 cherry trees - scheduled to be removed. These trees will be repurposed as mulch and used to protect the roots of the surviving trees from human foot traffic, giving the trees that were cut down a “good second life.”

During the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Stumpy skyrocketed to social media fame, garnering a dedicated fanbase that has spawned a demand for Stumpy merchandise including t-shirts and calendars among other items. Stumpy’s fans were heartbroken to hear that this year would be the tree’s last spring.

In the wake of the news, fans have left flowers as well as bourbon to pay their respect for the tree as it nears its final days. On Reddit, one dedicated Stumpy fan proclaimed that they would chain themselves to the tree’s trunk to save it from the big chop.

Some Stumpy fans on TikTok have left comments on videos of the trees, writing that it’s a pity that the tree will be chopped down even though it has remained resilient thus far.

“No they should leave Stumpy,” one user commented. “It’s survived against all odds.”

Another added, “I am devastated.

Litterst, however, has assured fans of Stumpy and the DC’s famous cherry trees that once the project is finished, crews are expected to plant 277 cherry trees as replacements. Stumpy’s genetic material will reportedly be used by the National Arboretum to create clones, some of them are expected to be planted as replacement trees.

The Washington DC cherry trees have become an intrinsic part of the capital’s culture. People from all over flock to DC to lay their eyes on the pink and white blossoms dotting the Potomac and National Mall, with the National Cherry Blossom Festival largely considered to be the start of tourist season in the capital.

The lost cherry trees and their blossoms will be sorely missed by many for the next three years.

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