They may inject fear in the hearts of exam-shy Queensland students but otherwise the annual purple haze that transforms Brisbane is celebrated. Much as I dread the thought of the long, hot summer days ahead the first bursting of jacarandas blooms heralding spring always brings pleasure.
Queenslanders have long had a love affair with the jacaranda although it is not a native, but indigenous to the tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America. One of the best loved works in the Queensland Art Gallery Under the Jacaranda features a tree that was a landmark in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens, which adjoined the grounds of the Brisbane Technical College, where the painting’s artist Godfrey Rivers taught from 1891 to 1915. The work depicts Rivers and his wife, Selina, taking tea under the shade of the tree in full bloom. The specimen is said to the first jacaranda brought to Australia which probably explains why Queenslanders are so possessive of them.
Brisbane isn’t the only city to fall in love with the jacaranda. Ipswich has made it a feature tree celebrating with an annual festival at Goodna and the Grafton Jacaranda Festival is a fixture on the Northern New South Wales tourist calendar. Sydney has its fair share. Overseas the South African capital Pretoria develops its own purple haze at this time of year and Nepal and Bhutan are jacaranda lovers.
Under the Jacaranda
Oh, and while on the subject of seasonal purple hazes, welcome back to those other little puffs of purple – the agapanthus.