Jacaranda Time in San Diego

May is, indeed, Jacaranda time in San Diego. The beautiful blooms of the Jacaranda tree begin to show in early May and the full explosion of blue/purple/violet color continues throughout the month, after which the green growth takes over from the fallen blossoms that make a temporary carpet under the tree. The tree’s “leaves” are reminiscent of the mimosa which has a similar shade of green and shape.

The picture above is very much like the tree in the small park near our home and where dog-walkers, including me and my dog Genji, gather during the late afternoon walks.

Flying into San Diego from the north during May lets one see the extent of the trees in Greater San Diego. Viewed from the plane they show up as little “powder puffs” of color in clumps, alone, or in strips planted along streets, as the pilot first steers the plane inland and then turns west and flies over the city, directly over beautifully landscaped Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo, and makes a landing at Lindbergh Field on the bay in the downtown area.

Horticulturist Kate Sessions, a San Diego icon, was responsible for much of the early landscaping for the city parks, and she brought Jacarandas here, along with many unusual plants, starting nearly one hundred years ago. She has a large, beautiful park named for her.

I’ve noticed, for example, that almost every time a new road project around here is completed, Jacaranda trees are set out along the right-of-way, leading to more violet color for the future San Diegans and visitors to enjoy.

A similar move was underway, though not centrally coordinated, in the Knoxville,TN area where we lived for twelve years. I used to wonder that if I could come back to Knoxville in one hundred years I might see the majority of trees in the area being dogwoods. Many trees are set out every year there and the percentage of trees being dogwoods keeps growing.

The beautiful dogwood blooms (petal-like bracts) filled the yards of homes, in parks, and along the forest edges throughout the region in early spring. Dogwood festivals were common and suggested drives for the best views were designated by newly painted pink center stripes on the streets and roads. We enjoyed the drives and that time of year there was our favorite.

Perhaps San Diego will have Jacaranda festivals within one hundred years and provide guides for special drives to view the trees. Other cities around the world are increasing the number of these trees in their streets and parks. Although the tree is native to south central South America, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, it thrives in many areas of the world.

Pretoria in South Africa is popularly known as The Jacaranda City due to the enormous number of Jacaranda trees planted as street trees and in parks and gardens. In flowering time the city appears blue/purple in color when seen from the nearby hills because of all the Jacaranda trees. The time of year the Jacarandas bloom in Pretoria coincides with the year-end exams at the University of Pretoria and legend has it that if a flower from the Jacaranda tree drops on your head, you will pass all your exams. (Wikipedia)

But the dogwood has special features too, the “seeds” have changing colors as they age, from green to red to black. I remember a nice dogwood tree near our house when I was a pre-schooler and a tricycle speed demon! I remember cycling under that dogwood so much that I had to ‘gas up’ often. Regular gas was the green and red was the “hi-test”. I would put the seeds down through a hole in my handlebar and hit the road again.

Strange how we load up parts of our brain with such memories. I could have used that part for some more quantum physics, but such is not so needed anyway in my today-tasks of dogwalking and going to the grocery store. And I can smile more while  thinking about that little boy and his special gas station.

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