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

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pretoria is a "proud host City" of the 2010 Fifa World Cup - symbolised by this soccer ball on the Telkom tower, rising above the jacaranda blossomsSports capital - Loftus Versfeld rugby stadium, home of the Blue Bulls Rugby club and match venue for the 2010 Fifa World CupA suburban streetMain Road in Brooklyn, Pretoria, is a blaze with colourA beautiful combination of jacaranda and bougainvillea blossomsBut beauty has a "down-side" as well - when wet these blossoms lying on the sidewalk can be dangerous! Many a twisted ankle and bruised knee has been caused by the blossoms on the ground which become very slippery
Pretoria is a "proud host City" of the 2010 Fifa World Cup - symbolised by this soccer ball on the Telkom tower, rising above the jacaranda blossoms
Pretoria is a "proud host City" of the 2010 Fifa World Cup - symbolised by this soccer ball on the Telkom tower, rising above the jacaranda blossoms
Sports capital - Loftus Versfeld rugby stadium, home of the Blue Bulls Rugby club and match venue for the 2010 Fifa World Cup
Sports capital - Loftus Versfeld rugby stadium, home of the Blue Bulls Rugby club and match venue for the 2010 Fifa World Cup
A suburban street
A suburban street
Main Road in Brooklyn, Pretoria, is a blaze with colour
Main Road in Brooklyn, Pretoria, is a blaze with colour
A beautiful combination of jacaranda and bougainvillea blossoms
A beautiful combination of jacaranda and bougainvillea blossoms
But beauty has a "down-side" as well - when wet these blossoms lying on the sidewalk can be dangerous! Many a twisted ankle and bruised knee has been caused by the blossoms on the ground which become very slippery
But beauty has a "down-side" as well - when wet these blossoms lying on the sidewalk can be dangerous! Many a twisted ankle and bruised knee has been caused by the blossoms on the ground which become very slippery
Click thumbnail to view full-size

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

More by this Author


Comments 24 comments

Jean H 6 years ago from UK

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.


Makiwa profile image

Makiwa 6 years ago from Australia

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.'


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

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?


Catherine R profile image

Catherine R 6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

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.


Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 6 years ago from The East Coast

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


fastfreta profile image

fastfreta 6 years ago from Southern California

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.


Russ Baleson profile image

Russ Baleson 6 years ago from Sandhurst, United Kingdom

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


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 6 years ago from The Land of Tractors

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


IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 6 years ago from UK

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.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks for dropping by and commenting, Izzy!

Love and peace

Tony


ainehannah profile image

ainehannah 6 years ago from Dublin

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!


Wendy Krick profile image

Wendy Krick 5 years ago from Maryland

Very Pretty Tree.


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

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


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Wendy - it is indeed! Thanks for the visit.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


Bucks here profile image

Bucks here 5 years ago from South Africa

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


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

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

Love and peace

Tony


SuneXtra profile image

SuneXtra 4 years ago from Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa

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!!


Marius1961 profile image

Marius1961 4 years ago from Ireland

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


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 3 years ago from Southern California, USA

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.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 3 years ago from South Africa Author

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


Caylie 3 years ago

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

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


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 3 years ago from Southern California, USA

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.


Vicky 3 years ago

Pleaisng to find someone who can think like that

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working