As the flowers fall, they form a brilliant mauve carpet beneath the tree.
As the flowers fall, they form a brilliant mauve carpet beneath the tree. hidesy

Long may the purple reign

As a uni student in Brisbane in the 1980s, I absolutely detested jacarandas. The blooming of the jacarandas in October meant that exams were around the corner.

As stress levels mounted (known as the purple panic), the gorgeous carpets of mauve flowers turned to stinky, slippery mush.

Far too often that sent me sliding clumsily and painfully down pathways as I rushed about campus, desperately trying to catch up on last-minute study.

It's taken more than 20 years for me to overcome that dread and appreciate the beauty of the jacaranda. Driving from Byron to Lismore is an absolute joy as the lush green countryside is punctuated with clouds of mauve.

Jacaranda mimosifolia is native to South America. Australia's first jacaranda tree was planted in the Brisbane Botanic Garden by Superintendent Walter Hill in 1864, and it is said that that tree is the ancestor of all of the jacarandas subsequently planted in Brisbane and Grafton.

The jacaranda is so successful in some areas that it has been listed as a potential environmental weed.

It is beginning to naturalise in parts of Queensland and New South Wales, although I'm not aware of it being a problem around here.

Jacarandas grow fairly quickly to about 10-15 metres tall.

Masses of glorious trumpet-shaped flowers appear in bunches in mid to late spring, before the return of the foliage. The flower colour is variable, from pale blue through mauve and lilac tones and even deep blue to purple.

There is also a rare white form. Jacaranda semiserrata, or port wine jacaranda, is similar, with larger leaves and deep purple flowers.

Jacarandas prefer a sunny position, rich, well-drained soil and protection from wind and frost when young.

Jacarandas make a great shade tree. Avoid pruning them because, after pruning, they are prone to sending up vertical shoots which spoil the shape and appearance of the tree.


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