City of Joburg

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Joburg's jacaranda trees blossom around October and November each year, transforming large swathes of the city with their glowing purple canopies. Here's some quick background on the history of these exotic trees.

One of Joburg's jacaranda-lined avenues
One of Joburg's jacaranda-lined avenues turned purple with the blossoming of the exotic trees. CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Jacarandas are indigenous to South America, but their history in South Africa can be traced back to as early as 1880, when they were imported from Argentina.

Before gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand in 1886, there were several farmers in the area. These farmers brought seeds from the Cape and planted oak, walnut and jacaranda trees.

According to Smith in The Star of 1945, the first jacaranda to be planted in the city was at Charlton Terrace in Doornfontein. Smith reported that Tree entrepreneur William Nelson had nurseries in Turffontein where "by 1896 he grew 30-million trees, shrubs and plants for general distribution".

Nelson, who business was known as Nelsonia Nurseries, apparently planted "66 miles (106 kilometres) of trees along the streets of the newly established suburb of Kensington". The task took six months to complete. It's believed to be the first time street trees were planted in South Africa on such a large scale.

Jacarandas are exotics, have been declared invasive plants and are now prohibited for propagation and planting by law. They are capable of withstanding the test of time, however, with a life expectancy of up to 200 years if cared for properly.