by Piter Kehoma Boll
Let’s keep the trend of last week and present again a South American species, but today’s fellow has moved way beyond its original range.
Scientifically known as Jacaranda mimosifolia, the common names of this species are blue jacaranda, fern tree or simply jacaranda. Its native range includes a considerably small area between Argentina and Bolivia, but it is grown as an ornamental tree throughout the whole world.
An iconic tree, the blue jacaranda reaches up to 20 m in height. Its bark is smooth at first but later becomes scaly and rough as it typical of trees of the family Bignoniaceae, to which it belongs. The leaves are large, up to 45 cm long, and are bipinnately compound, i.e., the compound leaf itself consists of compound leaflets, which is likely the reason why it is sometimes called fern tree.
The flowers are, however, the most iconic feature of this tree, appearing in spring and early summer. They are tubular, reach about 5 cm in length, have a pale purple-indigo color and are grouped in large panicles. The fruits are dry woody pods with a somewhat oval shape and are often gathered for decoration purposes, including the decoration of Christmas trees or as body ornaments, such as the confection of earrings.
The wood of the blue jacaranda has a light color and is considerably soft, being often used for the creation of sculptures and bowls, especially when still green.
The blue jacaranda became an important cultural element in many regions of the world. It is often featured in songs, especially in Argentina and Brazil. In South Africa, the city of Pretoria is also known as the Jacaranda City due to the large number of blue jacarandas that turn the city blue in Spring. In Australia, the blue jacaranda became associated with the final exams of students in the University of Queensland, which is known for its jacarandas. The trees flower during the time the students are running to complete their assignments and study for their final exams, which give rise to the expression “purple panic”.
Despite its widespread occurrence as an ornamental plant, the blue jacaranda is considered vulnerable in its native habitat by the IUCN’s Red List. In other areas, such as South Africa and Australia, for example, the tree is sometimes an invasive species, outcompeting native trees by blocking their growth.
Due to such negative impacts, planting new jacarandas in Pretoria is now forbidden. The idea of removing the adults trees, which was the original plan, was discarded due to their popularity with locals. Nevertheless, in some decades or centuries (provided that humanity will survive that much as a civilization), the Jacaranda City will eventually lose all its Jacarandas.
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Prado D (1998) Jacaranda mimosifolia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1998: e.T32027A9675619. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.1998.RLTS.T32027A9675619.en Access on 17 September 2020.
Wikipedia. Jacaranda mimosifolia. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacaranda_mimosifolia >. Access on 17 September 2020.
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