The Yoshino cherry tree is the predominant variety that encircles the Tidal Basin and spills north onto the Washington Monument grounds. The Yoshino trees produce a great profusion of single white blossoms that create the effect of white clouds banked around the basin. The Yoshino, known as Somei-yoshino in Japan, is a hybrid of unknown origin that first was introduced in Tokyo in 1872 and is now one of the more popular cultivated flowering cherries. Mingled with the Yoshino trees is a small number of the Akebono cherry trees, a mutation of the Yoshino tree with single, pale-pink blossoms, introduced into cultivation by W.B. Clarke of California in 1920. The Akebono tree flowers at the same time as the Yoshino and provides an attractive tint of pink in the early stages of the peak bloom.
The Kwanzan cherry tree, named after a mountain in Japan, is growing primarily in East Potomac Park. Coming into bloom two weeks later than the Yoshino, the upright Kwanzan branches bear heavy clusters of clear pink double blossoms. The cultivars Fugenzo (double, rosy pink flowers) and Shirofugen (double white when open but aging to pink) also are represented. Fugenzo is the cultivar Mrs. Helen Herron Taft believed she planted even before she officially planted the first tree from Japan in 1912. They were planted along the Potomac River from the present site of the Lincoln Memorial southward toward East Potomac Park; they gradually disappeared. As First Lady, Mrs. Taft became interested in the beautification of a particular Potomac Park area, known then as the "Speedway" surrounding the Tidal Basin.