October / November is Jacaranda flowering season on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
Suddenly there are clouds of lilac dotting the horizon. From afar it looks like a purple fantasy cloud. Something blown by that caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. But up close the flowers are groups of delicate little bells which mass together to create plumes of blooms.
The trees we know as Jacarandas, those tall beauties with masses of purple blooms are more specifically named Jacaranda Mimosifolia… The genus Jacaranda includes about 50 other species.
By November the sad news is they're coming out the other side of their flowering season. But the good news is, as they drop their blooms, they amass a carpet of purple snow at their roots.
Jacarandas have always held a special place in my heart. My grandma had one in her garden which we used to sit under doing crosswords and drinking tea.
I once bought a tiny Jacaranda seedling from a hardware store… Inspired by those happy childhood memories. My partner at the time told me I was crazy - because they grow so big.
I nurtured that little seedling and it grew and grew into progressively bigger pots under the back pergola. We both fell in love with ‘Jack’, and he rewarded us with flowers in his third year.
A Brazillian Stowaway...
I always thought Jacarandas were native to Australia, but turns out they hail from South and Central America.
Although there is some conjecture, it seems the first Jacaranda seed was brought from Brazil to Australia on the wheat ships that sailed the trade route to South America. The ships would return empty of cargo except for gneiss ballast rocks.
In 1864, Walter Hill apparently scored a seed from one of the ship captains, whilst procuring rocks for the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, where he was superintendent. He planted it, it thrived and is said to be the first Australian ancestor of all the Jacarandas in Brisbane and Grafton (host to the annual Jacaranda Festival).
The tree stood as an iconic Brisbane landmark until it was uprooted by a cyclone in 1980. You can still view this very tree at the Queensland Art Gallery, in what many consider to be Queensland’s most famous painting – Under the Jacaranda, painted by Godfrey Rivers in 1903.
Bronwyn Watson wrote in The Australian, “Sometimes real jacaranda blossoms will mysteriously appear on the floor below the painting, as if they have cascaded from it.”
Another story suggests that the first Jacaranda tree grew in the gardens at Clarens, one of the mansions along Potts Point in Sydney. The owner of the Garden was Sir James Martin, the namesake of Martin Place in Sydney, who filled the garden with exotic plants from all over the world during the 1850s and 60s.
Although they are not a good cut flower, and hence you won’t see them in floral arrangements… There’s no denying they are a jewel to behold. Something to be admired in their natural state.
“This most beautiful flowering tree is a native of Brazil, and no garden of any pretentions can be said to be complete without a plant of it. The specimen in the Botanic garden is well worth a journey of 50 miles to see. Its beautiful rich lavender blossoms, and its light feathery foliage, render it the gem of the season.” Sydney Morning Herald, 5 December 1868
Oh, and the wood of the Jacaranda tree is also used for the body of acoustic guitars!
>>> The Flowervore Blog is written by Leonie Orton, head floral player and word gatherer. You can read more by Leonie here. Flowervore is a Sunshine Coast florist specialising in Weddings & Events, Succulent Gifts and a Weekly Posy Delivery. Sign up for stories, updates and offers here and like the Facebook Page.