Why Stumpy, DC's iconic cherry blossom tree, is drawing so much attention

This is Stumpy's last bloom, and the beloved tree is receiving quite a sendoff.

March 26, 2024, 4:04 PM

A hallowed-out, small cherry blossom tree in Washington, D.C., is getting a major amount of attention ahead of its removal from the Tidal Basin because of climate change.

The tree -- nicknamed "Stumpy" -- is perhaps the "Charlie Brown Christmas tree" of D.C.'s iconic cherry blossom trees. Located along the Tidal Basin reservoir, the tree appears to be dying -- yet its branches still bloom annually.

However, this year will be Stumpy's last bloom ahead of its removal as part of the National Park Service's decision to cut down 150 trees that have lined the waterfront view for more than a century.

PHOTO: The cherry blossom tree nicknamed "Stumpy" on Sunday, March 17, 2024.
The cherry blossom tree nicknamed "Stumpy" on Sunday, March 17, 2024.
Oren Oppenheim/ABC News

Over the last century, sea levels in the Washington, D.C., area have risen by more than a foot, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The National Parks Service announced in mid-March that it will undertake a three-year project to rebuild seawalls around the Tidal Basin and other areas, and said that "site preparation at the Tidal Basin beginning in late May 2024," after the end of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, will require the trees' removal.

PHOTO: People walk along the Tidal Basin as cherry blossom trees are in bloom, on March 19, 2024, in Washington, D.C.
People walk along the Tidal Basin as cherry blossom trees are in bloom, on March 19, 2024, in Washington, D.C.
Leigh Vogel/UP via Shutterstock

National Parks Service spokesperson Mike Litterst confirmed to ABC News on Monday that Stumpy is indeed among the trees set to be removed, and that the removed trees will be mulched.

While Stumpy can't be transplanted elsewhere, the National Arboretum in D.C. will take cuttings and propagate trees that are genetic marches of Stumpy that can be planted once the work is done, Litterst said.

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But Stumpy isn't going quietly. The beloved and scraggly tree is receiving quite the sendoff from adoring fans.

PHOTO: High tide water reaches to the base of a cherry tree nicknamed "Stumpy" after a visitor left behind a thank you note at the Tidal Basin, on March 20, 2024, in Washington, D.C.
High tide water reaches to the base of a cherry tree nicknamed "Stumpy" after a visitor left behind a thank you note at the Tidal Basin, on March 20, 2024, in Washington, D.C.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Crowds of visitors to the Tidal Basin have been taking farewell photos with the tree; a National Symphony Orchestra trumpeter played a fanfare to the tree last week; the presidential mascots of the Washington Nationals paid a visit; and an upcoming D.C. race, the Credit Union Cherry Blossom, will feature a Stumpy mascot at its 10 mile and 5K races next month (per the race's website: its height is "Short King.")

Social media influencers, photographers, artists, and many others have taken to social media to post photos or artwork with Stumpy and to bid it farewell.

PHOTO: The cherry blossom tree nicknamed "Stumpy," with the Washington Monument in the background, on Thursday, March 21, 2024.
The cherry blossom tree nicknamed "Stumpy," with the Washington Monument in the background, on Thursday, March 21, 2024.
Oren Oppenheim/ABC News

"The interest in 'Stumpy' has been through the roof ... all the attention from the Japanese embassy and the Washington Nationals and the Library of Congress and the LEGO Discovery Center and the National Symphony Orchestra and so many others has been unexpected," Litterst wrote to ABC News.

ABC News' Dee Carden, Julia Jacobo, and Daniel Peck contributed to this report.

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