“I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree.” We’d like to believe that Joyce Kilmer drew inspiration from Jacaranda trees in bloom when she wrote her famous poem.
While Pretoria may be unofficially known as the Jacaranda City with more than 70,000 trees lining its streets, it is Johannesburg that actually has more Jacaranda trees, with the first tree planted at Charlton Terrace in Doornfontein back in the early forties.
Jacarandas are in bloom from late September to the middle of November, draping our urban neighbourhood and concrete jungle in magnificent shades of purple and blue.
Who introduced the first Jacaranda trees to Johannesburg?
According to Joburg City Parks, William Nelson from Nelsonia Nurseries in Turffontein had planted nearly 30 million trees, shrubs and plants for general distribution, and planted approximately 106 kilometres of trees along the streets of Kensington by the turn of the 19th century.
We spoke to Mark Kaplan, owner and manager at the Munro Boutique Hotel in Upper Houghton, where some of the most beautiful views of Johannesburg’s Jacaranda trees can be enjoyed. The views from Munro Drive are spectacular, and you can see Magaliesberg mountain ridge on a good day.
“Pretoria is built in a valley between two hills, so a lot of people spend time high and look down onto the orchards, whereas in Johannesburg you just have to drive down the street to see them. You can’t see them en masse like you can here.”
According to Kaplan, Joburg boasts “the largest man-made urban forest in the world. Cities like Brazil have bigger forests, but they’re natural. But this is a man-made forest because this was all grassland.”
Jacaranda trees are a threat to the environment
He explained that the trees had been banned for many years, but that has been overturned and nurseries are allowed to sell them again. They were classified as a ‘category three invader’ in 2001 because Jacarandas invade water sources.
“All these trees have been planted, indigenous trees that have been brought in from other parts of the country, but they don’t belong here naturally. It’s an exotic, and it comes from South America.”
However, when the Jacaranda trees were banned, officials categorised the tree under a particular category of invasive species, which allows municipalities to keep existing trees “but not to replant them when they die.”
“Those moments under the shade of the Jacaranda trees on the vicarage lawn were the most pleasant of the trial …” – Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom.
Where to view Jacarandas in bloom in Johannesburg?
Apart from the views from the scenic and historical Munro Drive in Houghton, there are several other spots around Johannesburg offering superb views. Melville is a must-visit as the purple Jacaranda blossoms are contrasted against the pink bougainvillaea on 4th Avenue.
We also suggest taking a stroll down Jameson and Victoria Avenues in Melrose, while the James and Ethel Gray Park offer a unique view of the Observatory Ridge and the spectacular jacaranda views against the downtown skyline.
If you are in Greenside or Emmarentia, remember to take a trip down Clovelly Street, as well as Galway Road in the neighbouring Parkview where a magnificent purple canopy of purple blossoms awaits you.