Things a Canadian Loves About South Africa: Jacaranda Trees

Quite some time ago, I promised that I’d write about ten things I love about South Africa before I’m allowed to whine and moan again… writes Phil Maloney. This series wouldn’t be complete without talking about natural beauty all over the dang place here. Everywhere I turn, I see stunning views that take my breath away. And then I move away from the mirror, and there’s STILL spectacular sights to see. Yesterday reminded me how fortunate I am to be in South Africa as I went to go check out some of Pretoria’s famous jacaranda trees.

Yep. These sure are trees.

First, a little history about jacaranda trees in Pretoria (I’ll make it quick because let’s face it, nobody reads my blog for the educational content).

Even though Pretoria is nicknamed The Jacaranda City, jacaranda trees aren’t indigenous to South Africa and are actually kind of a local pest (I can identify with these trees). Jacaranda trees first came to South Africa from Argentina in the 1880’s, when two of them were planted on Arcadia street in Pretoria.

Because they’re beautiful, their popularity quickly spread, and before long, there were anywhere from 60000 to 70000 jacaranda trees in Pretoria.

OK, all jacaranda tree pictures kind of look the same.

Jacaranda trees bloom an explosive purple for about 8 weeks in September and October, and local university students take the first hint of colour as a sign that they’d better start studying for final exams.

Apparently, it’s good luck to have a jacaranda petal fall on you as you walk under a tree, which is a load of crap because one fell on me and then I promptly stepped in dog turd as I was basking in my good fortune.

Obligatory close up bloom porn.

However, as I mentioned, jacaranda trees aren’t a local species, and like every other time humans try to improve our surroundings, we stuffed it up. Jacaranda trees need water. A lot of it.

I’m not sure how much you know about South Africa, but “gee willickers that place has a LOT of water” isn’t generally the first thought that pops into people’s minds when they think about the country (although this weekend there was a major downpour in Pretoria).

Luckily, nature always has a way to deal with things, and there’s a deadly fungus slowly killing all the jacaranda trees in South Africa, and it’s illegal to plant or sell any more of them.

So, uh, I guess that’s good news?

Anyway, I’m fortunate enough to live here before treemageddon wipes out all the jacaranda trees, and I really wanted to take some pictures.

This is my third jacaranda tree season in South Africa, and somehow my crippling laziness beat out my ambition to take pictures of the previous two years.

Luckily, this year a friend of mine also wanted to go, and once we made plans, I couldn’t really back out.

We made our way to Beckett Street in Pretoria near the union buildings. And there they were. Beautiful, sexy, jacaranda trees.

There’s not much of a story to write about because, well, they’re trees. They don’t do much. They just kind of wait around and let people take pictures of them. So that’s what we did.

So… remember when I said taking pictures of trees is kind of boring?

I anticipated that. So I brought my dinosaur suit and transformed in a mighty Philociraptor. My intention was simply to get a couple funny pictures of me amongst the jacaranda trees, but fate smiled on me that day and brought a busload of tourists. (In Japan, Pretoria’s jacaranda trees are apparently more famous than Table Mountain.)

The tourists drifted my way and started taking pictures of me standing in all my carnivorous glory amongst the trees.

So I waited.

When they got close, I gave my best dino roar (I have an eight-year-old son- I have had a LOT of practice) and started chasing after them.

I guess they weren’t expecting that, and to be honest, I wasn’t either. I generally have no idea what I’m about to do until I’ve done it. Luckily, Megan was quick enough to catch some of the chaos on camera:

There I am. Just minding my own business. (photo credit: Megan Crose)
Still just a typical day. (photo credit: Megan Crose)
Oh hey. Where did you guys come from? (photo credit: Megan Crose)

Having accomplished more than I wanted to that day, we decided to pack it up and go check out the legendary white jacaranda trees on Herbert Baker Street. Apparently white jacaranda trees are super rare and beautiful.

They may be rare, but they were super lame. They were just like regular jacaranda trees, but without the colour. I’m not even going to post of picture of them, cause I was less impressed than my mom is about most of my life choices. But if you want to read more about them by somebody who appreciates them more than I do, you can check out this great blog by 2Summers.

I was kind of hoping he was going to drop his iPad. I want an iPad, and this blog doesn’t pay crap all. (photo credit: Megan Crose)
RAAAAAWWWWRRRRRR! Give me all your grapes! (I love grapes). (photo credit: Megan Crose)
Not pictured: My smug sense of achievement. (photo credit: Megan Crose)

So ya. There’s my jacaranda tree story. You’ve still got a couple of weeks to go check them out before they disappear for another year. Or you can just Google pictures of jacaranda trees. Same same. (Or view Ria Viljoen’s beautiful Pretoria jacaranda photos here.)

By Phil Maloney

(If you liked this post, don’t forget to sign up to Phil’s mailing list here so you never miss another post again! While you’re at it, you can like the Maple and Marula Facebook page here, the Maple and Marula Instagram here, and follow Maple and Marula on Twitter here)