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Forecast peak for Washington cherry blossoms moved back to March 19-22

(Reuters) - The start of the predicted peak bloom of Washington's renowned cherry blossoms was moved back to March 19-22 on Wednesday, revising a forecast for a near-record early bloom prompted by a remarkable winter heat wave, the National Park Service said.

Peak bloom had been predicted to begin from March 14-17, but temperatures for the coming weekend that are colder than originally forecast prompted moving the forecast date back, the service said in a statement.

The blooming of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin are one of the U.S. capital's major tourist attractions. The city's Cherry Blossom Festival draws thousands of visitors daily and is one of the biggest U.S. springtime parties.

Peak bloom refers when 70 percent of the blossoms of Yoshino cherry trees, the most abundant of the 12 species around the Tidal Basin, are in bloom. Once in bloom, the flowers can last four to 10 days.

The earliest peak bloom is March 15, recorded in 1990, according to park service records.

The National Park Service had made its original prediction for peak bloom on March 1, when the temperature tied a record of 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius). The forecast followed the warmest February on record in Washington.

The National Weather Service is predicting high temperatures in Washington this weekend of around 37 F (3 C).

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Tom Brown)