This week while visiting my friend Kharin here in San Miguel, I looked up from admiring her lovely terrace garden to see a jacaranda tree in bloom in the distance. It was my first jacaranda-in-bloom sighting of the season. I wanted to dance around her terrace and sing “It’s jacaranda time again!” Bliss.
When I lived in southern Africa in my mid-twenties, I learned that springtime there was known as “jacaranda time.” Majestic jacaranda trees lined the broad avenues of the capital — then Salisbury, Rhodesia, now Harare, Zimbabwe — and came into bloom in October and November each year, which is springtime in the southern hemisphere.
The city of Salisbury when I lived there (from 1969 to 1972) was rightly and proudly known as “the city of flowering trees.” There were flame-red flamboyants, delicate-pink mimosas, and sunny-yellow cassias, among the many other colorful tropical flowering trees lining the streets. But I was most captivated by the jacarandas.
Growing up in northern New Jersey, I’d loved the dazzlingly colorful fall foliage, and the fragile, Eastertime-flowering dogwood tree in our front yard. But I’d never seen trees like these jacarandas in southern Africa: toweringly tall and strong, like oak trees in their regal bearing; yet, when in bloom in October, fancifully dressed in frilly gowns made of pale-purple, bell-shaped flowers.
As I wrote in my memoir of that time and place (Somewhere Child, Viking Press, 1981), “in November, when the rainy season began, the purple bells fell along the wet sidewalks, mirroring the glamor of the trees.” What impressed me most and inspired me then about those jacarandas was the juxtaposition of their soaring strength and their seemingly fragile beauty.
Now, here I am, five decades later, living in the central mountains of Mexico. Spring is approaching, and what do I find? It’s jacaranda time again. I feel as if I’ve come full circle.
Now that springlike weather has arrived, this beautiful, old, colonial city of San Miguel de Allende will gradually become dotted all over with an added color on its already color-filled palette – purple jacaranda (pronounced “HACK-ah-ronda” here) trees in bloom.
I’ve learned that jacaranda trees, native to South America, have been planted widely in Asia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia, and other tropical and subtropical regions. Obviously, being tropical trees, they don’t like cold weather. “Small jacaranda trees can grow in shade, but more mature trees need more sun,” I read. Ah, and here’s an inspiring takeaway: “Only older jacaranda trees will bloom.”