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The Blue Jacaranda, Jacaranda mimosifolia more often known simply as the "Jacaranda", is a sub-tropical tree native to South America that has been widely planted elsewhere because of its beautiful and long-lasting blue flowers. Older sources give it the systematic name Jacaranda acutifolia, but it is nowadays more usually classified as Jacaranda mimosifolia. It is also known as the Black Poui, or as the fern tree. In scientific usage, the name "Jacaranda" refers to the genus Jacaranda, which has many other members, but in horticultural and everyday usage, it nearly always means the Blue Jacaranda.
The Blue Jacaranda has been cultivated in almost every part of the world where there is no risk of frost; established trees can however tolerate brief spells of temperatures down to around −7°C (20°F). In the United States, it can be grown in many southern states, if necessary in containers. It is only regarded as naturalised in Miami-Dade County, Florida and Hawaii. It grows well also in California (north to Oakland) and Southern Texas, and has been reported to grow in Lafayette, southern Louisiana, the Mediterranean coast of Spain, in southern Portugal (very noticeably in Lisbon), southern Italy (in Naples there are beautiful specimens). It is regarded as an invasive species in South Africa and Queensland, Australia, the latter of which has had problems with the Blue Jacaranda preventing growth of native species.
The tree grows to a height of 5 to 15 metres. Its bark is thin and grey-brown in colour, smooth when the tree is young though it eventually becomes finely scaly. The twigs are slender and slightly zigzag; they are a light reddish-brown in colour. The flowers are up to 5 cm long, and are grouped in 30 cm panicles. They appear in spring and early summer, and last for up to two months. They are followed by woody seed pods, about 5 cm in diameter, which contain numerous winged seeds. The Blue Jacaranda is cultivated even in areas where it rarely blooms, for the sake of its large compound leaves. These are up to 45 cm long and compound, with leaflets little more than 1 cm long.
The taxonomic status of the Blue Jacaranda is unsettled. ITIS regards the older name, Jacaranda acutifolia, as a synonym for J. mimosifolia. However, some modern taxonomists maintain the distinction between these two species, regarding them as geographically distinct: J. acutifolia is endemic to Peru, while J. Argentine stock. Other synonyms for the Blue Jacaranda are Jacaranda chelonia and J. ovalifolia. The Blue Jacaranda belongs to the section Monolobos of the genus Jacaranda.
Popular culture references
Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa is popularly and poetically known as Jacaranda City or Jakarandastad in Afrikaans because of the huge number of the trees which turn the city blue when they flower in the spring. The name Jakarandastad is frequently used in Afrikaans songs, such Staan Op by Kurt Darren.
People in Australia sing a Christmas song about Jacaranda trees, as the blooms are only seen in summer time—as the song explains, "When the bloom of the jacaranda tree is here, Christmas time is near".
In Argentina, writer Alejandro Dolina, in his book Crónicas del Ángel Gris ("Chronicles of the Gray Angel"), tells the legend of a massive jacarandá tree planted in Plaza Flores (Flores Square) in Buenos Aires, which was able to whistle tango songs on demand. María Elena Walsh dedicated her Canción del Jacarandá song to the tree. Also Miguel Brascó's folk song Santafesino de veras mentions the aroma of jacarandá as a defining feature of the littoral Santa Fe Province (along with the willows growing by the rivers).