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  • Writer's pictureSpeak Your Roots

The blue Jacaranda or Jacaranda mimosifolia

The scientific name of the blue Jacaranda is Jacaranda mimosifolia. The name Jacaranda as it is commonly known as, comes from the Tupi-Guarani languages, which means fragrant or sweet smelling; though the tree's flowers lack a distinct fragrance. Mimosifolia alludes to the Mimosa tree like dark green leaves which look similar to fern leaves , being bi-pinnately compound. The tree is reported to be endemic to a bioregion known as the Yungas, which are a narrow band of piedmont (French for foot hill) forests along the eastern slope of Peru, Bolivia extending into north-west Argentina. The tree belongs to Bignoniaceae family or Trumpet vine family which mostly consists of woody plants, with a few very well known avenue tree genera like Tabebuia, Spathodea( tulip tree) and Tecoma all of which like the Jacaranda are planted for their colorful blooms. The hallmark of the family is their Trumpet or tube like flowers with fused petals.( Pic1) From Pretoria in South Africa to New South Wales in Australia; from Shillong, Meghalaya to Munnar in Kerala, Jacarandas have been planted in many cities and towns for their violet blooms. The presence of this tree in many former British colonies is thought to be attributed to Allan Cunningham, a 19th century English Botanist and explorer. A visual of synchronous flowering violet canopies of these otherwise inconspicuous trees dotting the city symbolises a change of season. This feathery leaved, grey barked subtropical tree which prefers slightly acidic soil is very much at home in Shillong as evident by the profuse flowering, the likes of which I have never seen elsewhere. The end of April and early May is the peak flowering time here in Shillong.

Despite the colonial origins of this alien tree, it is claimed as being a part of the urbanscapes that it has been planted in. For the countries in the Southern Hemisphere like Australia and South Africa, the Jacarandas bloom during October and November, and it is marked as the herald of spring season. This also coincides with year end University exams in these places, which has earned the jacaranda the moniker as "Exam tree".

There is even a popular aphorism among students of University of Queensland that "If you haven’t started studying when the jacarandas bloom, you will fail your exams!" Being a common tree in many cities, the paradox is that the Jacaranda in its native range is threatened by habitat loss and logging and wild populations are deemed vulnerable.

Khublei Shibun @treesofshillong for this great post!
Picture credit: @treesofshillong


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