Cherry blossoms bloom early on 100th anniversary

Cherry blossoms blooming in Washington, D.C.
CBS News

(CBS News) It's cherry blossom time in Washington, D.C., and this year is special.

Not only is the warm weather is making the trees bloom earlier than normal, but this year also marks 100 years since Japan sent the cherry trees as a gift.

Twice, the cherry blossom forecast has been moved up for this special anniversary. The National Park Service says this won't be the earliest bloom on record -- but it will be close.

The pink buds have already burst on a few brilliant trees. And soon, all the roughly 4,000 trees along D.C.'s tidal basin will take on the vivid, cloud-like shapes that have dazzled crowds for a century -- a tradition that now draws more than a million people each year to the nation's capital.

The first trees were delivered -- as a gift from the city of Tokyo -- in 1910, but they were infected with insects and had to be burned upon arrival.

Then, just two years later, the Japanese sent 3,000 more. And in a small ceremony, first lady Helen Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador planted the very first one.

The cherry trees -- much like the relations between the U.S. and Japan -- have withstood the test of time and serve as an expression of international friendship.

To see the Whit Johnson's full report, click on the video in the player above.