When in full bloom, their petals paint the streets purple and their pleasant and rich aroma hangs in the air.
It’s mid spring and the jacaranda trees, most common on the suburban streets of Pretoria and Johannesburg, are in full bloom. Students can attest to their ‘lucky charms’. A saying goes that if you’re a student and haven’t begun to study before the jacaranda trees bloom, you’re going to fail. But if you haven’t hit the books yet, don’t worry, there’s another myth – you’ll pass if a jacaranda flower falls on your head.
There are an estimated 70 000 jacaranda trees in SA, 50 000 of them on the streets of Pretoria alone, turning the city purple when they flower in October and November. First imported to Pretoria in 1880 from Argentina, the jacarandas, which are indigenous to South and Central America, were initially planted along city avenues and then found their way into gardens.
In his famous memoir Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela wrote about how they offered a brief escape at lunchtime during the Treason Trial. ‘Those moments under the shade of the jacaranda trees on the vicarage lawn were the most pleasant of the trial.’ The trees, which consume a lot of water, have been classified as an invasive alien species in both SA and Australia.
Here, it means we may keep those that already exist, but we’re not allowed to plant any more of them. So enjoy them while you can: