A chilly wind blew as Manzairaku, a traditional Japanese performance troupe, danced in Love Park on Monday. After weeks of unseasonably warm weather, many cherry trees in Philadelphia have blossomed into brilliant pink and white.

The 15th annual Cherry Blossom Festival has officially opened. The celebration of Japanese culture is timed to herald the arrival of spring colors in Philadelphia's trees.

"Kwanzan cherries have not bloomed yet.  It's mostly the yoshino cherries that are in full bloom right now," said horticulturalist Marilyn Romenesko, with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. "That's a majority of what is involved along Kelly Drive."

This year those cherry blossoms could be in danger of freezing as the weather swings erratically.

The blossoms might suffer as March goes out with a cold snap, and the trees cannot acclimate quickly enough for the blast of winter weather.

"Since it's been quite warm, and just started turning cold, the plant might not be hardened off," said Romenesko. "On the other hand, we've had rain, so that's in our favor, because hydrated plants fare better than dehydrated plants."

Regardless of the state of the trees, the 40-plus events associated with the Cherry Blossom Festival will go on as scheduled. Since last March, the festival has raised $240,000 for Japanese tsunami relief efforts.


Photos by Emma Lee