The dream tree
“The Jacaranda flames on the air like a ghost,
Like a purer sky some door
In the sky has reveled”
Excerpts from “The jacaranda”
By Douglas Stewart from
The Dosser In Springtime (1946)
The most beautiful trees in the world, most beautiful trees, beautiful trees”
Talking about beautiful trees, this tree Jacaranda mimosifolia popularly known as blue jacaranda is one of the most spectacular tree nature ever thought of conceiving and it did in a brilliant manner indeed. Jacaranda trees put on one of the prettiest shows of any tropical tree. This has led to its popularity and it being cultivated in all tropical and sub-tropical regions for its beautiful and long lasting flowers. Jacaranda mimosifolia genus (aka blue jacaranda) belongs to the family Bignoniaceae which also includes the genus Delonix regia the orange-red ‘flame of the forest’. The flower color varies from light to deep purple and they cover the ground for several weeks in a sea of purple after they’ve drop from the tree. The sheer beauty are a wonder to behold in every country where grown. Jacarandas were originally known as “dream trees “, a name that captures the out-of- world effect of a jacaranda in full bloom. A bright violet branch of the spreading tree draws a sight. The flowers are panicles of huge clusters up to 12 inches long and as much as 8 inches wide of trumpet-shaped blooms each a distinctive purple blue. Branches of the trees hang with profuse clouds of blooms. Mature trees are briefly deciduous before flowering, and starts sprouting new growth as the flowering peaks, blossoms last 3 to 4 months. They briefly drop their leaves at the end of the dry season, and then leaf up again when the rains come.
If you think you’ve died and gone to heaven, you must be standing under a jacaranda tree, in the moments when the number of fallen petals match those suspended on the tree; and the tree’s shadow is colored purple from its magnificent clusters of violet blossoms which is so breath taking in the harmattarn haze. It is unlike any other tree in the landscape. Like clouds of lavender the spectacular blooms flood the tree prior to any leaves, making their lovely appearance more striking. When the bright trumpet-shaped blooms fall, they form a lilac sea beneath the awe- inspiring specimen with its soft aroma that fills the air soothing the senses. It’s easy to feel and be dreaming its heaven under these violet clouds and sea or like walking through an impressionistic painting. The harmattan season is the peak of the jacaranda blossom. In Calabar (Cross Rivers State) were many are growing, their blooming coincides with the its famous Carnival, Christmas and New Year festivities. The large, silky flowers make a grand entrance in November hanging in huge lilac bunches as they usher in the harmattan season which all passersby admire on this awe-inspiring tree. The incredible dome-shaped canopy makes walking along a street lined with jacaranda an experience to enjoy season after season.
Uses of Jacaranda plant
Some species are used for commercial purposes, while others decorative. This is a big tree. As well as being superb street trees, jacarandas look stunning on their own as a specimen tree in an open lawn, where their fallen flowers form a colorful sea of violet –blue. A jacaranda is a fast grower up to 50 feet (10-15m) and a spread about the same size. It prefers a full to partial sun in a location with plenty of elbowroom, so you need to be careful where you plant them as they can extend a long way.
Jacarandas are landscape plants. They are big trees and suitable as stand-alone specimen tree in large gardens and parks; as large anchor for garden bed; along urban streets, as shade trees; lining the property border (where growing over a neighbour’s yard won’t be a problem) along both sides of a large driveway to create an overhead arching effect.
Water extract of jacaranda mimosifolia shows higher antimicrobial action in vitro against Bacillus cereus and Escherichia coli than gentamicin sulfate does. The extract also acts against staphylococcus aureus in vitro.
Some species of this plant are used for commercial and other purposes aside from the horticultural. The soft wood dries without difficulty and is often used in its green or wet state for turnery and bowl carving. In Brazil it is the material used in making the acoustic guitar.
Place a jacaranda at least 15 to 20 feet from the house to accommodate the tree’s widespread and to prevent any house damage from falling branches. Keep these trees at least 15 feet or more from walkways or drive ways so roots won’t eventually cause problems. Small trees of jacaranda can tolerate light shade. However fastest growth and heaviest flowering occurs in full sun. Growing with somewhat funky shape when young, the branches form a nice rounded crown when the tree reaches about 20 feet tall.
Jacaranda takes a while to flower and then seasons on seasons till forever. Jacaranda can be grown from cuttings or that were grafted to seedling rootstocks or from seed. Plant grown from grafted cuttings is faster flowering and more reliable in the blue color. Your tree will begin to flower between 3 to 5 years old. Plants grown from seeds, (round woody seeds which follow flowering) and seedlings that appears as weeds near established plantings are easy to collect and transplanting is worth a try and won’t cost you anything. But you have to settle in for a longer wait, from 7 to 14 years. Seedling may not have a bloom similar to the parent plant, when you finally see their flowers. While the most common color for jacaranda is the lovely purple-blue, there is a white flower species Jacaranda mimosifolia alba called ‘White Christmas’ but rare to find. Jacaranda will thrive in well-drained soils, and sandy soil. Add topsoil or organic peat moss to the hole when you plant. You can also add in composted cow manure to enrich the soil around the tree’s root ball. Stake a jacaranda tree for the first year of its life. Yong trees can be blown over by strong winds. Sprouting takes about 2 to 3 weeks, and they will grow slowly, looking like ferns in their first year. These are drought- tolerant trees once they are established, but water it regularly in the first year and also to be watered during dry periods until well established. The trees with fine-leafed foliage cast a light dappled shade environment under its canopy making it easier for grass to grow under the tree than under other trees with denser canopy. You can under plant with shade-loving plants in a bed beneath like azalea and bromeliads as the tree grows. Jacaranda trees are tolerant of urban conditions and perform well as street trees and for greening and beautification of the city.
Jacarandas like a sunny position and well-drained, fertile soil, plus regular watering during the dry season when still growing. Mulching around the roots with organic material (e.g. compost, straw, bark etc.) will help retain soil moisture, but only apply over moist ground, not over dry ground otherwise the mulch might prevent rain reaching the soil. A thickness of no more than 50 mm of mulch is recommended.
Forget about pruning jacarandas or you will ruin their good looks and the tree’s shape forever. When you prune a jacaranda it sends up vertical shoots. The normal shape for a jacaranda is that of an elegant umbrella, and the appearance of vertical branches ruins its good looks. Your only solution if you have pruned a jacaranda is to persist in cutting off the vertical shoots, or even rubbed off the stem when they are young and soft.
As leaves are bi-pinnate-that is made up of tiny leaflets- and deciduous they can fall into gutters, drains, water tanks, ponds and swimming pools causing maintenance problems. For this reasons the ideal situation for a jacaranda to be planted is in a garden bed, in a center of lawn well away from paths, pavings and swimming pools. In this way the purple carpet of fallen flowers under the tree can be enjoyed without concern about the flowers becoming slippery on hard surfaces and the leaves falling harmlessly to the ground.