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The trees in Pretoria that make it the “Jacaranda City” of South Africa

The prettiest month

“Dit is die maand Oktober! Die mooiste, mooiste maand!
Dan is die dag so helder, so groen is elke aand,”

  • Oktobermaand, poem by C. Louis Leipoldt

Rough translation of the above two lines by one of South Africa's foremost writers of a by-gone time:

“It is the month October, the prettiest, prettiest month!

Then the day is so bright, so green every evening.”

In October we are, of course, in the maturity of spring, about to go into summer. But in Pretoria, we are in the midst of one of the greatest displays of nature's colours, thanks to the ubiquitous jacaranda tree, which lines street after street, showering its bright petals on sidewalks and roadways, bringing a lightness to every day.

A jacaranda tree - typical dark trunk and branches against the brilliant blue of the flowers.

A jacaranda tree - typical dark trunk and branches against the brilliant blue of the flowers.

The bright blue of the flowers stands out against the cloudy sky

The bright blue of the flowers stands out against the cloudy sky

Beautiful invasive alien

There are around 55000 of these beautiful, but potentially harmful, trees in the city. They were originally brought to Pretoria in about 1888 when two trees were planted at a school in the Arcadia area of the city, and have since proliferated all over. The tree, properly known as jacaranda mimosifolia, is a native of South America, and thrives in hot and humid climates, though it is fairly drought-resistant.

The tree has been declared a Category Three invasive alien plant, which means, in terms of the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, No. 43 of 1983, as amended in March 2001, that it can be kept only on certain strict conditions in South Africa:

  • shall not occur on any land or inland water surface other than in a biological control reserve. However, plants already in existence at the time of commencement of these regulations (March 2001) may continue to exist, provided they are not within 30 metres of the 1:50 year flood line of a river, stream, lake or other type of inland water body. In addition, the "executive officer" can impose further conditions on Category 3 plants already in existence at the time these regulations were imposed, which might include removing them if the situation demands it.
  • must be controlled by the land user to curtail the spread of these plants.
  • may not be planted, established, maintained, multiplied or propagated.
  • may not be imported or sold.
  • may not be acquired.
  • can be exempted from the above regulations through written exemption from "the executive officer", provided there is a good reason for it.
A tower of that other icon of Pretoria, the Union Buildings, peeps out from behind the jacarandas

A tower of that other icon of Pretoria, the Union Buildings, peeps out from behind the jacarandas

pretoria-the-jacaranda-cityof-south-africa
pretoria-the-jacaranda-cityof-south-africa

Fungus threat to the trees

The trees in Pretoria were given a special dispensation in terms of which the City was allowed to keep all the trees and replace those that, for whatever reason, were destroyed or died. The reason for this dispensation was that the trees were part of the character of the City and the City would thus lose something unique if they were all eradicated.

Jacaranda is listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red Data list.

In Pretoria the trees have been found to be infected with a fungus causing root rot that causes the trees to wilt and eventually die.

Vuledzani Muthelo, a Masters student at the University of Pretoria, is working on genetic and taxonomic aspects of Ganoderma species, the fungus suspected of causing the root rot of the jacarandas, in South Africa.

According to the website of the University's Forestry and Biotechnology Institute, Ms Muthelo's research indicates that “G. lucidum is causing root rot disease on the Jacaranda trees. This fungus is known to be a pathogen on many tree species in the tropical and temperate regions of the world, including Africa.”

The magic of the jacaranda

It will be rather sad if a fungus achieves what officialdom was unable to – the eradication of the lovely trees from the “Jacaranda City.”

I took the accompanying photos in a matter of hours this morning, trying to capture some of the magic brought to the City by these lovely, if somewhat dangerous trees.

The white jacarandas of Herbert Baker Street

While the rest of Pretoria goes mauve in October, Herbert Baker Street in the suburb of Groenkloof goes white, but also with jacarandas.

Apparently imported from Peru, these trees look exactly like the mauve flowered jacarandas but carry masses of white flowers.


Copyright notice

The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.

© Tony McGregor 2010

Comments

Elisabeth Trang on May 10, 2020:

Thank you. Beautiful pictures. I live in Houston and have been trying to keep it alive. It died but came back.

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on October 02, 2017:

So lovely!

Vicky on July 25, 2013:

Pleaisng to find someone who can think like that

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on May 23, 2013:

I am going to share your hub, as illustrative of how the jacaranda trees bloom in different parts of the year, dependent on the hemisphere where one is located.

Caylie on March 18, 2013:

You might be interested to read my article "White Christmas in Australia" about the White Jacaranda

http://cayliejeffery.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/white...

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on October 21, 2012:

Yes the purple carpet is beautiful but very very slippery when wet! Has been the literal downfall of many an unsuspecting pedestrian.

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on October 21, 2012:

I really love the beauty of the purple jacaranda trees, and when the flowers fall off, it looks like a purple wedding march on the sidewalks.

Marius Nielsen from Ireland on October 29, 2011:

This is an unbelievable beautiful city. Did my Military Training there for 7 years.

SuneXtra from Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa on October 19, 2011:

I absolutely love Jacaranda trees!! In Rosebank, there is a street (not sure of the street name though) that has so many Jacaranda trees on the sidewalks, and the trees touch over the street - so it looks like this amazing purple tree arch over the whole steet... Stunning!!

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on October 14, 2010:

Bucks - thanks for stopping by and commenting. Glad you enjoyed!

Love and peace

Tony

Bucks here from South Africa on October 13, 2010:

Reminds me of the days to start studying for end of year exams, also the rumor was that if a Jacaranda flower fell on your head you would pass your exams

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on October 11, 2010:

Thanks Mr Happy! Your comment has made me happy indeed!

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on October 11, 2010:

Wendy - it is indeed! Thanks for the visit.

Love and peace

Tony

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on October 10, 2010:

That is one of the most gorgeous trees I have ever seen! Simply beautiful.

Wendy Henderson from Cape Coral on October 10, 2010:

Very Pretty Tree.

Aine O'Connor from Dublin on December 26, 2009:

Thanks for the pix - they are gorgeous :0) - and the info. I didn't know about the fungus and their potential harm for other trees. They're just about the most romantic and beautiful trees for me, simply because they're so exotic - you don't get to see many of them in Ireland. I'd heard of them in Cyprus but didn't get to see them in the sort of proliferation you've shown in Pretoria till I went to Oaxaca, Mexico last year where they're just as beautiful as these. Thanks again, it was a lovely start to a winter's day!

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on December 20, 2009:

Thanks for dropping by and commenting, Izzy!

Love and peace

Tony

IzzyM from UK on December 20, 2009:

Loved this hub:)

The Jacaranda trees are beautiful. They grow here on the Costa Blanca but not so prolifically as they do where you are, and they don't seem to self-seed here either - probably due to the arid conditions.

Carolyn Augustine from Iowa on November 01, 2009:

Beautifully told and I loved your photos. I'm glad I discovered your writing here.

Russ Baleson from Sandhurst, United Kingdom on October 31, 2009:

Howzit Tony, great hub as usual. I miss those trees!! Love, Russ

Alfreta Sailor from Southern California on October 21, 2009:

I feel like I'm looking at the streets of Pasadena, California, USA in the spring, (March and April). Some streets of Pasadena looks just like the ones in South Africa. I understand most of the trees here were brought here somewhere else, my guess is maybe the Jacaranda was probably bought here from South Africa. I'm glad to hear about their origin, but sad to hear about the fungus, I hope that the scientist can find a cure. I need to do research on that. Very good hub.

Flightkeeper from The East Coast on October 21, 2009:

Jacaranda trees are so pretty, I would never have known that. Thanks Tony.

Catherine R from Melbourne, Australia on October 21, 2009:

Lovely hub Tony. I had a beautiful Jacaranda in my front garden in Cape Town. Sadly I have learned that the man who bought my house has now cut it down to make an extra parking space! No doubt the neighbours have been upset by this as the whole street used to love that tree which had been there for years. Down here in Melbourne you see the odd Jacaranda but we are just that little bit colder and it is really November before it blossoms.

Barbara from Stepping past clutter on October 21, 2009:

Tony, it amazes me what you see when you walk out the door each and every morning. So many new sights, captured so well in the eye of your camera!

I awoke to snow this morning-- and roads that are slushy and wet. Now the winter worry begins, as my daughters both hit the road for school and work. I would rather worry about slipping on sidewalk blossoms, sigh.

I hope your trees survive the root rot. There is something so calming about the color lavender. Is there a scent?

Judy Witt from Australia on October 21, 2009:

This is a paragraph out of my book that I would like to share with you - my story, as a Salisbury(GHS)school girl growing up in Southern Rhodesia.

'Jacaranda Avenue well deserved its name as the large old trees formed an arch over the road, feeling tired I looked for somewhere to rest. Turning around, I saw my footprints squashed into the purple petals along with a few car tracks bruising a way down the carpeted road. I found a smaller clean park and, feeling much safer, picked a spot under a tree out of sight and rested.'

Jean H from UK on October 20, 2009:

Stunningly beautiful. I hope most of the trees manage to survive the fungus. It is reminiscent of Dutch Elm disease which wiped out some 25 million trees in the UK in the 1960/70s.