57 Jacaranda acutifoliaCommon Names: jacaranda Family: Bignoniaceae (bignonia Family)
Even before you see it, you sense its presence. Once in your field of vision, its sizzling, violet-blue floral explosion grabs your attention and holds it fast. Well, at least for me anyway... Driving at a fair clip on US 441 near Tavares, Florida, my eyes locked onto a fluorescent ultra-violet mass that shimmered in dark water of a canal. Mesmerized, I gawked, admired and then drove off the road... Recovering control of the car, I resolved to stop and pay a proper visit to this beauty on my return trip.
The jacaranda is a large deciduous tree with fine-textured, fern-like pinnate leaves. Young trees are upright but assume an irregular branching pattern that produces beautifully asymmetric open crowns as the trees age. From April to June (depending on species and location) the tree covers itself with showy trumpet shaped flowers that are about 1.5 inches wide and are arranged in panicles (pyramid shaped clusters) that grow at the tips of branches.
There are about 50 species of Jacaranda, most of them native to South America and the Caribbean basin. J. mimosifolia (nurseries often label this tree J. acutifolia which is a synonym) is the species most often seen in Florida are native to the Amazon River Basin countries of Brazil, Argentina and Peru. The spectacular Jacaranda is enjoyed as an ornamental in many near-frostless areas all over the world.
CultureJacaranda prefers enriched sandy, well drained soils but is tolerant of most soil types. This is not a salt tolerant plant. Light: Bright sunny conditions are preferred. This tree will tolerate some shade but will bear fewer flowers. Moisture: Likes moisture but will tolerate some drought. Doesn't like soggy or poorly drained situations. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. Propagation: By seed. Selected varieties are grafted. Cutting from half-ripened wood can also be used (treat with rooting hormone).
Most jacarandas reach very sizable proportions and are unsuitable for small properties. Occasionally certain species or selected varieties are available that are smaller in stature and can be enjoyed in suburban yards and for patio plantings - check with your nursery. Since this is a deciduous tree it is best planted among evergreens that will hide its bareness in the winter and provide a green backdrop for the vibrant flowers in the spring. As mentioned earlier, this tree is especially impressive when reflected in the still waters of a lake or pond.
Jacaranda is good for urban, street and boulevard plantings. Indeed, the first I ever heard of this tree was when Gidget (Sally Fields in the TV series NOT Sandra Dee in the movie version) was distraught because the city was going to cut down the jacaranda trees that lined her street. If I recall correctly, she came through for the trees and all lived happily ever after. When I first saw the jacaranda in person I thought, "wow, now I understand why Gidget became so passionate - what a beautiful tree!"
The jacaranda boasts some of the most electric and intense colors that nature has to offer - I love the vibrant blue, violets and purples that are the hallmark of this genus. The fact that the tree stays in bloom for more that 8 weeks makes it even more desirable. Jacaranda are inexpensive and easily available from most nurseries and garden centers in areas where it will grow.
Jack Scheper 06/06/99; updated 12/31/06