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Jacaranda Tree: An Outstanding Beauty In South Africa

What was your expression when you first saw a jacaranda tree? Did you stand and admire the undisputed beauty for a while? My first sight of a jacaranda tree made my heart beat faster.

I was like a teenage girl who just chatted with her crush for the first time. This is where I was. Under the sun. Hypnotized by these magnificent and huge trees.

It was my first time in South Africa. My first look at a jacaranda tree. The tender flowers of the trees reaffirm my reverence for the creator.

Jacaranda tree south africa
Jacaranda tree South Africa


The fallen flowers on the ground create patterns in my mind’s eye. (You will see the pattern at the end). Did you know that the name of the tree is called jacaranda before now? Other names include blue jacaranda, black poui, fern, and the tree of dreams.

Overview Of The Jacaranda Tree

The name jacaranda comes from the botanical name Jacaranda mimosifolia. It is a regional subtropical tree from South America. Due to its unique and amazing purple colours, Jacaranda is planted in almost all parts of the world.

The jacaranda reaches a height of 20 m. When the plant is young, the body is smooth but as it ages it becomes rough. The flowers form a bouquet of 12 and each flower is 5 cm long.

There are various reasons why the tree is planted. The most common purpose is shade. Even though this plant is native to South America, cold climates hinder its growth. If you want to plant this tree, a place with sandy soil with good sunlight should be your focus.

In some countries, the tree blooms from late September to early November. Others start, from late October to early November. Compared to European countries, the jacaranda tree is less popular in Africa.

This does not mean that it cannot be planted/prepared in Africa. Of the 54 nations in Africa, the blue jacaranda is seen in only five countries. South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In Brazil, the wood from the jacaranda tree is used for making acoustic guitars. They can also be manipulated for turnery and bowl carving. All these are possible because of the softwood. The wood is used in a dry state and also when it’s wet.

History Of Jacaranda Trees In South Africa

There are two main districts in South Africa where you will find thousands of Jacaranda trees. Pretoria and Johannesburg. We love our purple flowering trees. We wait each season to discover the blossom.

Nonetheless, it reminds us of our dark days: a time when only whites had the privilege of owning green land, parks, and planting trees.

According to Adelaide Chokoe, an arborist in the parks and zoo in the city of Johannesburg, the jacarandas “reflect a history of colonialism and apartheid”. It is a time when everything “white” (living and non-living) is seen as superior.

Overview Of A Jacaranda Tree In Johannesburg

Blue jacaranda South Africa

It is believed that the jacaranda tree arrived in Johannesburg about the year 1805 -1847. Baron Carl Ferdinand Heinrich von Ludwig the horticulturalists introduced it to the town.

Ludwig emigrated from Germany to Johan’s town in 1805 and he established a botanical garden on his arrival. In approximately 1830, Ludwig brought the jacaranda trees to the cape.

Various data and records give different stories about who first imported the tree. However, I won’t be trending on that part. Yet, I will mention the names of the people who have submitted the record. JH Wylie, FW Jameson, Robert Jameson, John Medley Woods.

In 1882, Woods was appointed curator of the gardens. He was also credited with planting the oldest living tree in South Africa since 1885. Wylie is believed to have planted most of the trees.

According to a timeline of custodians of the urban botanical garden, Medley was a curator until 1903. While Wylie carried on from 1904 to 1916. You should take note that Wylie was an assistant to Medley woods. 

Another narrative suggests that before the discovery of gold in Witwatersrand in 1886, jacaranda trees were planted on farms in the area. People argue that there is a bluer jacaranda in Johannesburg than Pretoria.

William Nelson

William Nelson is another very notable figure in the creation of the species in the city of Johanna. Nelsonia Nurseries is the name of William’s company and he is in charge of planting about 106 kilometres of trees.

Along the streets of the newly established development of Kensington, Johannesburg, there is a beautiful line of trees. This happened in the year 1896.

While this is believed to be the first time trees were planted on the streets on a large scale, the project lasted six months before completion. Urban areas such as Pietermaritzburg, Rustenburg, Barberton and East London are several areas where the Jacaranda tree is also planted.

How Jacaranda Seed Arrived Pretoria South Africa

Bolsmann and Otto suggest that the first time the Jacaranda trees were seen in Pretoria was in 1888. Templeman, a travelling nurseryman, sold two seedlings to Jacob Daniel Celliers. Jacob lives in Sunnyside Pretoria.

He planted the seeds in 1888 in his garden named Myrtle Lodge. This land is now home to the Sunnyside School in Sunnyside Pretoria. For protection’s sake, the Lodge was fenced with the trees.

Date of Pretoria, jacaranda tree
© Ac van Vollenhoven 2020

A slab was also placed at the site to celebrate the occasion. These two trees happen to be the parent tree of all other Jacaranda trees in the province. Mrs Cellier said that when friends come to visit, they instantly fall in love with the trees. Each friend goes home with some seeds to plant.

This contributed to the different areas where the tree is grown. It spread to the western and eastern provinces, Wellington and Uitenhage, South Africa. Before his death, JD Celliers also provided seeds for the Jacaranda plantation at Groenkloof in the 1890s.

Celliers obtained his license from the government to plant trees in Groenkloof in 1898. He ordered the seeds through a Pretoria businessman named James D Clark.

James Clark

James established a nursery in 1895; today the part forms what we call the Riviera suburb of Pretoria. In 1898 Clark received the seeds of Jacaranda along with others from Australia.

On the 51st anniversary of the founding of Pretoria, on 16 November 1906, Clark donated 200 seedlings of Jacaranda to the province. This was the beginning of planting jacaranda trees in the streets.

The first street was Koch street; now Bosman street and Arcadia Park. Although most of the trees died later, Clark replanted them. Clark was nicknamed “Jacaranda Jim”.

Frank Walter Jameson is also called “Jacaranda Jim”. Jameson is not only popular for his influence and contribution to the planting of the Jacaranda trees in Pretoria, but also in Kimberley and Nairobi Kenya.

A-List Of The Notable Names

  • Baron Carl Ferdinand Heinrich von Ludwig _ 1805 -1847
  • John Medley Woods _ 1882-1903
  • JH Wylie _ 1904 – 1916
  • William Nelson _ 1896
  • Jacob Daniel Celliers _ 1888 – 1898
  • James D Clark _ 1895

Believes And Law Surrounding The Jacaranda Tree

In South Africa, there are around 70,000 Jacaranda trees. A huge number, I must admit. As the tree is foreign, the government has banned the replanting of new trees.

They said cutting down the trees would not benefit the people because South Africans love it. Foreign or not. However, they encourage people to plant indigenous species.

Thankfully, the Jacaranda tree lives up to 200 years. So they are not going away anytime soon. When the town turns purple, students are reminded of the end of session exams. It is believed that if a flower falls on your head, you will pass all your exams. So I guess it’s a lucky charm.

In Australia, students from southeast Queensland call the flower purple panic. The time of bloom also corresponds with the timing of exams. Lots of assignments and projects are on the go.

It provokes a lot of panic and anxiety among the students. Although the jacaranda tree is beautiful, it also signals a delicate time in the lives of young learners.

My First Thought At The Sight Of The Tree

You know the flowers are in bunches of twelve before they fall. So I think that instead of giving a rose flower to a lady, why not give her a purple jacaranda. Interesting right!

Pretty crazy, those were my thoughts. It also brought me back to memory lane. I’ll tell you the story, but please do not judge. We are two different people, with varied lifestyles. What you can do is laugh and enjoy the moment. With that said, let’s go back to the story

I can’t remember what year, but I was a teenager at the time. After our primary school leaving exams, I lost contact with all my classmates. We moved to another state. Five years later, I decided to visit the city.

I had the privilege of meeting some of my friends again. We are now grown-ups and love for the opposite sex is already part of what we are going through. I can’t say it for sure, but I think women know more about these signs sooner than men. As a young, beautiful girl, I knew immediately when some of the boys started looking at me.

The looks that can make you lose your steps. Do you know the looks? As I was saying, I got this look from three of them. I liked three of them, so everyone had a chance. The dilemma for them was how they would approach me.


To cut a long story short, none of them was able to express their feelings. However, one caught my eye. He said, hey, Abi, I have something for you. He gave me a white rose flower and left.

I blushed and was surprised at the same time. Blushing because it was the first time someone gave me a flower and was surprised because he left without saying a word.

The irony of it all is that, although I love his kind gesture, I did not appreciate the flower. Call me what you want but this is me. He, however, does not know this other side.

Caleb would have won my heart if he gave me a card. Especially one he made himself. That would have been the melting point. For me, the flower has no value. It will die within days but the card can last for all eternity if well taken care of. Come to think of it, I just realise I still fall in love with words. I will say words are my love language then.

Sorry for the long story but that was where the dream tree took me. Can I say, I have travelled back in time? It is another season for these magnificent blooms.

Enjoy it. Explore it. Feel it and be grateful to be alive to experience these wonders. You may not be at your best yet, but you have life. Enjoy it without regrets. Nigerians say, “I can’t kill myself.”

I say it again live and have no regrets. Discover African proverbs to inspire you.

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