Jacaranda enjoys its purple reign over Nowra

At a Nowra council meeting in August 1927 the Forestry Department advised that an order for young Jacaranda trees was not going to be delivered after all.

The Nowra Leader reported; “Alderman Bennett said he was pleased the Jakarandara (sic) trees were not available as he considered they were not at all ornamental and were unsuitable.” 

It’s hard to imagine he’s talking about the same tree that is flowering in its full blaze of lilac glory in the streets of Nowra this week. 

The trees became popular for use as street trees in beautification programs from the 1950s onwards, but it’s thought the native of Brazil was first introduced to NSW in 1818.

The tree flourished in Sydney, and folklore has it that one particular Sydney hospital matron sent each new born baby home with a seedling.

Nowra embraced the trend early.  What is thought to be the town’s oldest Jacaranda tree still grows in the garden at Meroogal and is over 100 years old.

Meroogal gardener Tony Boland say the women of the Thorburn family planted the original Jacaranda there in 1909. 

Sydney Living Museums, which looks after Meroogal, notes the tree was grown from a seed taken from one of the first Jacarandas in the colony – a gift from the Dick family of Windsor. 

This tree could well be responsible for the proliferation of Jacarandas we see today in the older streets of Nowra, as it was very common for neighbours to share seeds and plants from their gardens.

Mr Boland said the original tree is a much photographed icon of Nowra, now flanked by two other trees that have sprung from its seeds.

“There was a lady here yesterday who came specifically to paint them,” Mr Boland said. 

The flowering of the Jacarandas moves from north to south, with Mr Boland saying the Jacaranda Festival town of Grafton has trees in bloom some six weeks earlier than those in Nowra. 

He said our Jacarandas were having a particularly good year.

”There’s something particularly iridescent  about the colours this year,” he said.

Planted in 1928, a Jacaranda in the Quadrangle at Sydney Uni was intended to give students of philosophy "shade to think under".

The tree quickly became symbolic for all students, who believed that if they did not begin studying before the tree's first blooms appeared they would fail their exams.

Sadly, that famous tree collapsed this year before exam time.

It will be replanted, along with a native tree. That may well be the beautiful red Illawarra Flame tree, which makes a famous pairing with Jacarandas, or possibly the orange flowering native Silky Oak.

These three trees all flower at the same time and make a spectacular display when they are planted near each other. 

But where there’s beauty there’s also usually pain. After rain the petals of the Jacaranda become lethally slippery.

Many a person has slipped over on the pretty flowers that drop like a carpet beneath the tree. 

Before they fade for another year, send us your Jacaranda photos by email to adam.wright@fairfaxmedia.com.au and we’ll share them with our readers.