Purple Haze: Jacarandas make a hot mess in Burbank.


It’s jacaranda season in Los Angeles, even if you pronounce it wrong.

Of course, I want to pronounce it with the same prefix as, say, Hockney. But many online phonetic sources tell me that this is incorrect. These sources confirm that the first syllable is “jack”, as in jackass, not “hock”.

I’ve always regarded people who say “jackaranda” in the same class as people who pronounce “guacamole” with a hard “g”, like “Guam”– but now I stand ever so corrected.

It’s a Portuguese name, derived from a word in the Tupi (indigenous Brazilian culture) language, translating more or less to “hard center” or “hard branch”. Apart from its nearly-neon flowering, the wood of the jacaranda is considered precious, and may be used for making the bodies of acoustic guitars and other cool things.

The vibrational frequency of the chroma seems higher than other flowers in the same color palette, like iris or lilac. Jacaranda pulses, almost the color of “Fabulosa” household cleaner. Botanists remind us that blue tones are unusual in the floral world, so the weeks of the jacaranda indeed feel rare and filled with wonder.

The 49 species of jacaranda are native to Central and South America, but thrive in many other sunny places, from Brisbane to Bhutan. Pretoria, South Africa is known as Jacaranda City for its proliferation of the blooming trees.

The tree came to Southern California, thank God, through the curiosity and diligence of the remarkable horticulturist named Kate (Katherine) Sessions, known fondly as the Mother of Balboa Park. Her life seems due for a biopic. Anybody got Meryl Streep’s cell number?

But in spite of their beauty, some folks are anti-jacarandists. They don’t like the fact that the blossoms fall and get slippery underfoot (the slime is caused by aphid-waste in the flower, apparently). A few years ago, hundreds of the trees were cut down in Yorba Linda because people got annoyed at the showers of glowing purple flowers raining down on their patios and pool decks.

Could there be any simpler definition of a killjoy?



Victoria Thomas

About Victoria Thomas

Brooklyn-born Victoria Thomas loves writing about flora and fauna, although she chooses to do so in an urban setting. If she had it all to do over again, she might have become a forensic entomologist. She lives in Los Angeles.
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