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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Jacaranda: The Lilac Emigre’

The streets of Buenos Aires succumb to purple haze.


Jacarandas and spring sky, November in Buenos Aires

Photo: Mary Ann Roser and Ted Thomas

Travel to the capital of Argentina is advised March to May, September to November, especially the latter, since that’s when the city’s jacaranda trees are in full flower.

There are 39 species, but the queen of Buenos Aires appears to be Jacaranda mimosifolia, frothing above the Recoleta like the bubbles of grape soda. Aloft, the blossoms make a regal canopy for strollers and picnickers. By December, the blooms turn to a surf of amethyst.

This beauty, native to Argentina and Brazil, loves riversides. It’s been spread now over much of the subtropical world. Botanist Kate Sessions introduced to tree to hospitable San Diego. Pretoria, South Africa, calls itself “Jacaranda City,” and Grafton, Australia, hosts a two week jacaranda festival in late October-early November. In Queensland, according to the UBC Botanical experts, the trees have done well enough to become a nuisance, though Geoff Clark’s tale of his mom’s 30 year struggle to grow one of these purple glories suggests conditions might be a bit tougher in New South Wales.

imageUnder the Jacaranda by R. Godfrey Rivers (1903)

Queensland Heritage

If you’d like to try growing a jacaranda, this good site describes a number of tree varieties, the conditions they tend to like, and other particularities, which include “interesting leathery seedpods.”

Ross McKinnon of Brisbane Botanic Gardens writes that Walter Hill collected the first jacaranda to be planted in Australia, 1864. Artist R. Godfrey Rivers painted this very tree in full bloom in 1903, a work that’s still one of the most popular pieces in the Queensland Art Gallery collection. The tree flourished here until 1979 “when it was blown over during a cyclone ― part of the trunk is now located at the offices of the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.”

Mil gracias to Mary Ann Roser and Ted Thomas, recently back from a jacaranda-strewn visit to Buenos Aires, llenos de inspiracion.


Posted by Julie on 11/29 at 05:55 PM
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