Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Jacaranda, the Tree of Heaven

The magnificent Jacaranda

While most of the colour has drained from the bush and it seems to be a quiet time while it catches its breath, the city streets have erupted in a blaze of purple.  This is because the Jacaranda is in bloom.  I always thought that this was an Australian tree because it is so widespread on most of the east coast, but it turns out that according to Wiki  the Jacaranda is a member of the Begonia family and a native of tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America, although it is now very common in South Africa too.

Close -up of the blossom

According to Helen Curran, Assistant Curator of the Sydney Museum, in her delightful article "The Dream Tree: jacaranda, Sydney icon"  it has come to us via those intrepid plant hunters of the C19th. with the first specimens arriving in Australia from London. Curran explains how the tree became so ubiquitous despite early difficulties. I especially like the following quote:
“The jacaranda flames on the air like a ghost,
Like a purer sky some door in the sky has revealed.”

Excerpt from ‘The Jacaranda’ by Douglas Stewart, from The Dosser in Springtime (1946) 

The Jacaranda is certainly popular in Perth. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw all that purple. You don’t see many in Tasmania because they don’t like frosts, but it is said that on the mainland you can literally follow the progress of spring by the successive blooming of the Jacarandas along the coast. Grafton, about 600 Km north of Sydney has been celebrating their flowering for 81 years with its annual Jacaranda Festival  in late October, but Perth has been holding its own for the past sixteen years.
Older suburbs have the finest specimens
Here it doesn’t take place until late in November - last weekend to be precise, but unfortunately I didn’t hear about it until the day after, when we were on our way to a Christmas Festival.

Around Darlington
And another
Purple haze above and below -Jacaranda season is very shortlived
The early settlers (at least since the 1930's anyway, according to Curran) must have really appreciated those magnificent trees as you see many fine examples in older suburbs. Applecross, where the festival is held,  has a whole avenue of them. You do have to be quick though to catch those Jacarandas in bloom. I had planned to go back and take more pictures (I seem to be saying that a lot lately), but after only about a week which included several days of weather above 30o C, many of the blossoms had fallen and the trees were starting to look threadbare.

Purple petals on the footpath behind the Midland Town Hall
There's still a flush of purple in the Hills
The ephemeral beauty of the Jacaranda reminds me of that equally short -lived lilac that blooms all over Siberia in Spring. What a pity it doesn't seem to have a scent.


PS You'll be pleased to know that the Bobtail depicted on the previous page was not '"our" lizard, the one that gave me the fright of my life a couple of years ago when its large reptillian head appeared behind the roses I was weeding. I saw it again yesterday - my youngest son could probably tell you whether it was a girl or a boy. It was snacking on a snail. This is good because the snails aren't my friends anymore. I've noticed that they are responsible for the big black spots that appear on the leaves of the roses and sometimes you find them curled up right inside the flower heads or destroying the buds before they open.

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