Jacaranda Literaria

If you live in Southern California, it is very difficult to resist waxing lyrical in springtime when the jacaranda trees bloom.

The purple mist that invades almost every street come May and lasts through June is distractingly lovely. As with many things in this part of the state, the jacaranda is showy and short-lived. By the end of June, most of its blossoms, which are really a shade of deep blue-ish purple that is difficult to describe precisely—mauve? violet? No and no—have fallen to the ground, and are scattered by leaf-blowers into the gutters, where they wither and pale and finally turn to dust.

If you don't travel much outside of the United States, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the jacaranda is native to California. In fact, it's a fairly recent arrival, whose existence here is credited to Kate Sessions (1857–1940), who in 1892 leased thirty acres of land from the city of San Diego and introduced a variety of trees, including cypress, pine, oak, pepper trees and eucalyptus, most grown from seeds obtained throughout the world. Of these important imports she is most famously connected to the jacaranda, of which there are in fact forty-nine species, and which is native to South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean (though it has been successfully introduced to Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Africa, as well).

The species familiar to Californians is the blue jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia), and what writer, I ask you rhetorically, writing about Southern California, could resist the twin lures of the blue jacaranda's beauty and metaphorical brevity?

Turns out: very few. Here are some favorite examples.