Australia’s love of jacarandas is an unlikely foreign affair – despite being such an accepted part of the landscape of our towns and cities they are not actually native. The vivid purple variety, Jacaranda mimosifolia, that is common in parks and gardens across the temperate areas of the continent, is native to the northern end of the high Andes in South America.
It’s unclear exactly when the jacaranda was introduced and the debate over it has become a botanical version of State of Origin. The first official records of it being germinated in Australia are at Brisbane’s botanic garden in 1864, but news reports point to earlier plantings in Sydney. An account of the Prince of Wales’ birthday celebrations in the Sydney Morning Herald from 10 November 1865 describes admirers observing well-established trees: “Many enjoyed a stroll through the botanic gardens, which show the beneficial effects of the late rain; some of the most beautiful trees are now in luxuriant blossom, in particular the lilac flower of the Jacaranda mimosifolia is an object of much admiration.”
Russell Barrett, a research scientist at the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, says that, as in 1865, this year’s flowering should be aided by decent rainfalls.
“Like most trees, the season preceding the flowering is quite important,” Barrett says.
“The spread of rain across the year has been good for a lot of plants. It’s great to see in our gardens and across the landscape.”
In a year when so many normal parts of our lives have been disrupted, the annual blooming of jacarandas may provide a comforting reminder of the natural ebb and flow of all things.
But there will still be differences: the 86th annual Jacaranda festival in Grafton has been cancelled and the tourist buses, which in previous years have taken day trippers to see some of the most picturesque spots around Sydney harbour, won’t be visiting.
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