The Jacarandas are in flower.

It is Spring in the southern hemisphere and November is the month that the Jacaranda trees flower.

They are one of the most beautiful trees in cultivation and can grow to 15 metres in height, they are deciduous or can be semi deciduous, have thin grey-brown fissured bark, with fine fern like opposite, bi-pinnate leaves.

Jacarandas produce masses of drooping, showy blue or violet, bell-shaped flowers in panicles, which are usually terminal on the branch and flowering lasts up to two months.

A blue carpet can form under the tree as the flowers drop.

It has large woody flat circular seed pods with multiple flat winged seeds.

Showy blue or violet, bell-shaped flowers. Image — Peter Miles.
Large woody flat circular seed pods with multiple flat winged seeds. Image — Peter Miles.

This glorious tree will suit most areas as long as frosts are not severe.

Originally from Argentina it has been widely planted around the world (where there is no frost) and is naturalized in some countries, for example southern Africa and south-eastern USA.

Pretoria in South Africa, known locally as Jacaranda City and Grafton in NSW Australia, both have impressive municipal plantings.

Jacaranda as a street tree. Image — Peter Miles.
Jacaranda as a street tree. Image — Peter Miles.

Jacaranda’s accepted botanical name is Jacaranda mimosifolia D. Don, according to the Kew Gardens ‘The Plant List’ and the ‘International Plant Names Index’. See reference list for links.

D. Don refers to David Don, 1800–1841, a Scottish Botanist, he is the author who named the tree in 1822. D. Don was the librarian to the Linnean Society, also a Fellow of the Society and in 1836 was appointed professor of botany at King’s College, London (Dictionary of National Biography, 2020).

A plaque in Soho Square, London commemorating David Don. Image — London Remembers.

The Soho Square in London plaque inscription reads: Sir Joseph Banks, 1743–1820, President of the Royal Society, Robert Brown, 1773–1858, and David Don 1800–1841, botanists, lived in a house on this site. The Linnean Society met here 1821–1857.

Transporting Jacarandas to another country by sea in the 1800s on a sailing ship, would have taken many months and as the seed has limited viability over time, live Jacarandas may have been shipped.

I can’t find a reference to the transporting of live Jacarandas occurring but certainly many living plants, including tea plants Camellia sinensis, were kept alive in transport inside ‘Wardian Cases’ during the 1800s. These were timber boxes with built in glass panes, designed to allow light to enter, while still protecting the plant from salt sea spray while on board the ship.

The Wardian Case in Chelsea Physic Garden, London. Image — Peter Miles.

Jacarandas are prolific seed producers and the seed germinates readily when the seed is fresh, making it a weed species when near bushland, as it has become in parts of eastern Australia, southern Africa and east Africa. Because it is quite a vigorous and tall growing plant it can shade out other vegetation and may become a serious problem in areas of protected indigenous vegetation.

So, plant and enjoy this beautiful tree but please not near bushland.

R. Godfrey Rivers, England/Australia 1858–1925 / Under the jacaranda 1903 / Oil on canvas / Purchased 1903 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery.

References:

Chittenden, F.J., (1977). The Royal Horticultural Society. The Dictionary of Gardening (2nd Ed.) Oxford. Great Britain. University Press. Book.

Dictionary of National Biography (2020) 1885–1900/Don, David https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Dictionary_of_National_Biography,_1885-1900/Don,_David

International Plant Names Index (2020) https://www.ipni.org/n/130936-2

Kew Gardens Plant List (2020) http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-317311

London Remembers https://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/botanists

Lord, E. E. (1978). Shrubs and Trees for Australian Gardens (4th Ed.). Adelaide, S.A.: Lothian Publishing Co Pty Ltd. Book.

The Wardian Case https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/how-wardian-case-changed-botanical-world

Under the Jacarandas https://blog.qagoma.qld.gov.au/under-the-jacaranda-queenslands-favourite-painting/

Von Erhardt, W., Götz, E., Bödeker, N., & Seybold, S. (2010). The Timber Press dictionary of plant names. Timber Press. Book.

Peter Miles B.Env.Sc. 45 years in Environmental Science, specializing in Wildlife and Conservation Biology. Writes about Animals, Revegetation & Climate Change.

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