Posted by: Brad Nixon | May 24, 2013

The Blue Trees

One of the sights that was new to me when I moved to California was the blooming of lots of trees with blue flowers (click on photos for larger view).

IMG_0387 Jacarandas Palos Verdes

Actually, they’re more purple than blue, to be precise. These, I learned, are Jacarandas, a lovely name that sounds as exotic as their appearance. They’re not native to California, having been introduced from their origins in Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean. In fact, they’ve been introduced into many parts of the world, so that they’re familiar to our faithful readers in Australia, and the Expatriate Actuary resident now in the Midlands of England certainly knows that Pretoria in his native South Africa is known as the Jacaranda City (all these facts courtesy of Wikipedia).

Jacarandas bloom here twice a year, Spring and Fall, though the Spring bloom is typically more brilliant. All the Jacaranda photos in this blog post were made within walking distance of our house. The neighborhood sports a lot of Jacarandas amongst the amazing hodge-podge of landscaping that covers the suburb, every stick of which has been introduced since this part of the Palos Verdes Peninsula was converted from open range land to residential housing, primarily in the 1950s (although some parts were initially developed beginning in the 1920s).

My favorite spring-blooming tree (a shrub, actually, I believe) back in Ohio was the lilac, another beautiful name which Walt Whitman employed with great power in his poem about the death of Abraham Lincoln in one of the most moving lines in all of poetry, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed.” Although I miss the lilacs, the Jacarandas help fill the void.

IMG_0390 Jacaranda blooms

One of the distinctive images the trees provide is not merely the blooms on the trees, but the carpet of fallen blooms that covers lawns, sidewalks and streets.

IMG_0389 Jacaranda carpet

I have to say that, to my taste, the scent of Jacarandas is not all that pleasant, particularly after the blooms have lain on the street and been driven over for a week or two, so they don’t measure to the rare scent of lilacs. However, it’s one of those sights that’s not easily taken for granted, and one more reason to sometimes merely stop and gaze, here under the western sky.

© 2013, 2015 Brad Nixon



  1. I am indeed familiar with the Jacaranda – although they’re more widespread than just Pretoria – we had one in our back yard in Cape Town. They don’t flower twice a year, there, though – but they do flower very late. Usually by the time spring has come and gone, they’ll wake up and decide to look impressive. They’re quite the picture in Pretoria, though, where you’ll get whole avenues of them throughout the city.


    • Nick,
      Thanks. Must be quite a sight. Lateish here, too, since we’ve had what might be considered spring weather for quite a while in this climate.


  2. I saw Jacarandas for the first time back in the late 70’s when we rented a house in Rancho Park in West LA– the entire street was lined with Jacarandas and in full bloom they were stunning! I had exported myself and my husband to Los Angeles from New Jersey where we did not have Jacarandas. To find out what these trees were ( those were the days before Google etc.) I got on my bike one Saturday morning looking for gardeners who might be at work. Sure enough I happened upon two of them who told me what this amazing tree was– ever since I have always marveled at their existence. So thanks for bringing back such a special memory, Brad!


  3. The pics are lovely. Thank you for posting. They certainly flower profusely.


  4. Thanks for the post about the Jacarandas.

    May = Jacaranda. Springtime equation.


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