They tower magestically above the streets of Pretoria. Their branches seem to take hands high above the streets to form a canopy of purple flowers for the residents to pass through each day. Overnight the flowers fall and become a carpet on the road surface making a distinct popping sound when the first cars drive by.
Their beauty have been described by poets in lyrical terms, their flowers are associated with success in exams by students of the university of Pretoria, their colour is copied by artists, and photographers flock to capture the purple haze which covers the city each year during the month of October.
Although jacarandas are not an indigenous plant to South Africa, they have long been associated with the city of Pretoria. The first jacarandas were reportedly planted in 1888 on the grounds of a school in Pretoria.Seeds were imported by James Clarke who then planted the seedlings along the streets in Pretoria. Jacarandas became so popular and widely planted in Pretoria that it became known as the jacaranda city. Today it is reported that about 55 000 jacaranda trees grow in Pretoria.
These trees line the city sidewalks and turn the urban landscape into a purple fairy tale each year during the month of October.
The Jacaranda mimosifolia is native to north-eastern Argentina, where it thrives in the hot humid climate. As of 2001 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, that it can be kept only on certain strict conditions in South Africa
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 was that the trees are part of the character of the City and the City would thus lose something unique if they were all eradicated.
To me jacarandas will always be associated with home and each year I eagerly await that magical moment when the purple blooms appear almost overnight.
How can I ever see them as ” Alien Invasive Plants”?
Therefore I agree with these words which Nelson Mandela spoke during his first inauguration as President of South Africa:
To my compatriots, I have no hesitation in saying that each one of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld. – Nelson Mandela