Jacarandas – the world’s most beautiful tree

SouthAfrica,Pretoria, Jacaranda trees

Beauty is, of course, subjective.

But it is hard to imagine a more glorious sight than an avenue of jacaranda trees.  With their heads in a pale purple cloud, and their feet swathed in fallen blooms of the same color, jacarandas are a delight to behold.  As though they are not beautiful enough on their own, they seem to have entered into an alliance with other wonders of the plant kingdom to produce memorable vignettes: the soft jacaranda hue next to a wall covered in a lurid puce bougainvillea; jacaranda trees alternating with flame-red Flamboyants or the much darker purple of the Tibouchina tree; a small Golden Trumpet tree showing off its lemon yellow flowers against the jacaranda’s lavender apron.

Native t the tropical and sub-tropical regions of central and South America, the jacaranda can now be found gracing the streets of Bhutan and Buenos Aires, Los Angeles and Lisbon, as well as cities across Florida and California.

The title “Jacaranda City” goes to South Africa’s administrative Capital, Pretoria. Every October, the city turns purple as over 70,000 one hundred-year-old trees re-color the city and seduce residents with their sweet smell.   Johannesburg, some 30 miles away, has fewer trees but they are concentrated in a few suburbs which see a great increase in traffic as nearly everyone will take a detour to see these beautiful trees in bloom.

Auckland, New Zealand, is catching up fast, while Grafton, New South Wales has wide avenues where the trees touch overhead forming shady bowers.

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There is a down-side to these fast-growing adaptable city trees: if they escape into the wild they can become almost invasive and crowd out indigenous plants.  In fact, in the south African city of Pietermaritzburg, it is illegal to plant new jacarandas, and home-owners are strongly encouraged to replace them with other, local trees.

The idea hasn’t spread, and it is still possible to plan a world tour encompassing jacaranda-lined streets on six continents.


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