Purple Reign

In many areas of the world, changing foliage colors signal seasonal transitions. Even if we don’t experience it where we live, we’ve all seen pictures of maples, oaks, and dogwoods showing off their gorgeous autumn leaves. Although I’m happy enough not to have to deal with ice and snow, I do envy those who get to enjoy the glorious reds, oranges, and yellows that signal the coming of winter.

Here in Southern California, our autumn foliage doesn’t look that different from our summer or winter foliage, but we do get a magical burst of color this time of year. As spring transitions into early summer, the purple blossoms of the jacaranda tree begins to appear on the skyline and light up our streets. At first, just a few bell-shaped flowers dot the bare branches but, seemingly overnight, the tree’s canopy is covered in a vibrant violet-blue cloud.

Although the jacaranda is our city’s official urban tree, it is not native to our area.  Originally from South America, they are said to have been introduced here in the early 20th century by the locally renowned horticulturist, Kate Sessions.  Fortunately for us, our climate proved ideal for the jacaranda and it has flourished here ever since.

Jacarandas can be found all over San Diego, including downtown, La Jolla, and in Balboa Park. We are lucky to have several beautiful jacarandas on our block and, not too far away, a whole neighborhood is lined with the trees. I don’t know the history behind the mass planting, but it appears that every house on the street has at least one of the trees in its yard.

As spring warms into summer, the tree’s ephemeral blossoms start to fall, creating a lavender carpet on the lawns and sidewalks below. Pretty soon, green fern-like leaves begin to appear on the branches, and the once vibrant tree starts to blend into its surroundings again. If we are lucky, we may get a smaller bloom in the fall but, most likely, we will have to wait until the following spring, when the magic of the jacaranda tree reigns again.

Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

137 thoughts on “Purple Reign”

      1. It is cold, but so stunningly beautiful! The autumn colours are my absolute favourite time of year.💕. It like watching Mother Nature paint a majestic piece of art!

  1. I have never, ever seen this tree and these beautiful blooms before. Purple is a striking color, and I’ve never seen it on a tree. What a treat – thank you. I hope you get to enjoy all the ones near you when you are out for a walk.

    1. It really is a magnificent tree! I almost forget about them until – poof – they are everywhere. I understand the dropped blossoms can get pretty messy so I am thankful the homeowners love the trees enough to put up with the clean-up.

      1. I’ve been in San Diego several times (obviously not May/June) and I love it. I’d move there in a heartbeat it housing wasn’t so expensive.

  2. Janis, wow they are beautiful. Guess what? Tauranga is the Jacaranda capital of New Zealand. We have a few large species opposite us. I do understand what you mean about having a notable difference between winter and summer. We do get colder weather though no snow, more rain than anything else. My preference is for chilly mornings with sunny days which we do get plenty most winters. Having said that we haven’t been in NZ for a whole winter in 5 years. That will change this year. Lovely photos and they brought a smile as I sit here, recovering from doing a 12km walk!

    1. We have so many plants, bushes, and trees in common… they just bloom at opposite times of the year 🙂 It will be interesting for you to spend a winter there after all this time. I hope it stays chilly in the morning and sunny in the afternoons for you!

  3. Jacarandas! My favorite (alongside Sumac and a few others, I confess!).
    Didn’t know they are San Diego’s official tree…those photos are a primo purple haze fix for these eyes!
    And a relief after the steady stream of you-know-who and you-know-what.

      1. Not our latest trip which was in January. But different times we’ve been. The last time I remember seeing them in bloom was during a visit to the central coast – Morro Bay area – years ago!
        ps-did you get my purple haze pun?

  4. Janis, Such beautiful blooms! I’ve seen jacarandas in Argentina and other countries in South America. We have four distinct seasons where I live and I love them all. I miss the seasons when I stay in places that don’t have them.

    1. People who live in four seasons can’t imagine not experiencing them. I’ve never lived in snow, so I happy doing without 🙂 I’d love to have five or six homes in different climates, so I could spend the best season in each!

  5. I LOVE jacarandas, Janis!! I was there last year in time to see them all over the place. Love your shots, especially the rooftop view leading toward the ocean! Enjoy the purple rain!

    1. I really like how that one neighborhood looks like a little urban oasis this time of year. One of these days, I’m going to ask someone who lives there if they know the history behind all the jacarandas along their street. I wonder if Kate Sessions planted them long ago?

  6. Hi Janis, Truly a magical burst of colour! I don’t think I have seen a jacaranda tree in real life. The violet-blue is one of my favourite colours. All of your photos are beautiful! The one photo showing an overview of the city does show how the trees are in every yard. Thank you for whisking me away and transporting me into another neighbourhood.

      1. Janis, I am often puzzled and pay attention to the coincidences in my life. Last night I began reading “A Woman Makes A Plan” written by Maye Musk (Elon Musk’s Mom – you likely know this). A random non-fiction book I downloaded from my elibrary. One chapter in the book is called “Jacaranda Season.” What are the chances? Thanks to you I know what they are. 🙂

          1. I have only started reading the book. I peaked at the chapter titled “Jacaranda Season” – her Dad flying his plane over parts of South Africa, flying over Pretoria and seeing the beautiful Jacaranda from the sky. They decided to make Pretoria their home. 🙂

  7. Thank you for the amazing introduction to the jacaranda tree Janis! What a wonderful burst of color! Sometimes plants that are introduced into an environment are the most successful…this seems to be the c ase with this tree.

    1. It is such a joyful tree (although I happy not not have to deal with the messy bloom drop… I can just admire the gorgeous color). I’m glad you commented. Seeing it made me realize that I haven’t been receiving your posts. Not sure why that happens now and then, but I’ll fix it now.

  8. The jacaranda tree is most impressive. I’ve never read anything about it before. Thank you for the information and the gorgeous photos.

  9. Hi, Janis – Your jacaranda trees are beautiful, and your photography is stunning (as usual). Deep violet is a wonderful way to announce the coming of early summer (my absolute favourite time of the year)!
    Great post.

  10. Wow! Absolutely lovely trees and great photos…purple and lilac are my favourite colour for all plants..i look forward to when I can visit, maybe in May…which I think is the best time to visit anywhere.

  11. That is some kind of amazing and beautiful purple! We have a lot of jacaranda in Venice, Florida but I don’t think I have ever seen such a beautiful display of these lovely flowers as you have here. Top photo is absolutely spectacular! Your photo of the Jacaranda tree lined street just makes my heart happy.

  12. Janis, my first reaction was are those real? Are they photoshopped? They are truly magnificent. Thanks for sharing. Keith

  13. We have lots of blooming trees in the spring which I love. The white, pink and purple blooms completely cover the trees. All different types of pear and crabapple. Sadly, the blooms don’t last long especially if we have a windy day. But I sure enjoy them while they’re in their glory.

  14. Janis, this is the time of year that Jacarandas bloom in Florida also. The ones in my neighborhood are not nearly as stunning as this, but our Royal Poincianas are just gorgeous. You must have those also (orange blooms) side by side they make quite the statement.

    1. I had to look up Royal Poincianas. I’m not sure we have them here. We do have trees with orange blossoms, but I think they are called coral trees. I wonder if that tree in my header (taken in Oaxaca) is one? We have a master gardener in our book club so I will ask her if those trees grow in San Diego.

  15. WOW! thank you for sharing – what an outstanding display – I assume non-fragrant? I cannot imagine such a spectatcular display that also smelled good.

  16. Beautiful photos, so cheerful. I like how exotic your part of the world looks to me. Always great to see what other people see in their daily lives.

  17. Just stunning! I love blossoming trees. Here, we have mimosas, magnolias and wisteria. Nothing like this, except the blooms on the ground do remind me of Texas Blue Bonnets.

    1. I had to look up mimosas (the only mimosas I knew about were the once you drink at Sunday brunch); I’m not sure we have them here. We do have magnolias and wisterias, though. So many gorgeous plants everywhere… we need to take better care of our planet to ensure their survival.

  18. Gorgeous blossoms, Janis! Thanks for brightening my evening. Purple is my favorite color. 🙂 We never saw these Jacaranda trees in bloom in San Diego, but that’s probably because we have never visited outside of winter. As you know, I’m with you about not desiring cold and snow! Your climate is pretty perfect.

  19. First of all, very clever title Janis. What beautiful colors … I have never seen such beautiful trees and its blossoms. I love when all the flowering trees suddenly erupt into bloom the first warm day in Spring here in SE Michigan and I have written in the past that it reminds me of how girls used to look at their proms (back in the day) in their poufy pink dresses or lilac-colored frilly dresses. Now the online newspaper always does a gallery of couples at prom for local high schools – the dresses look nothing like they used to.

      1. Yes, sleek and airy is the new look for proms now. You are right Janis – let’s keep seeing those frilly trees dressed by Mother Nature. They are exquisite and perfect!

  20. The jacarandas trees look so vibrant with the blue sky. My garden is looking the best it ever has thanks to the glorious weather we’ve been having in the Uk especially the Rhododendrons. Lovely uplifting post. Andrea x

  21. Thanks for sharing all that lovely Purple Reign! You know, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen jacaranda’s in bloom. They are stunning. Enjoy their brief reign.

    1. It must have been hard to leave the beautiful central coast. The climate is so different – almost night and day – where you live now. I bet there will be a lot that you’ll miss, but all of those things will be replaced by different discoveries you will make in your new home. I’m looking forward to your pictures of Olympia and the surrounding area.

  22. Hi Janis! Here I am…running late as usual 🙂 but I love your photos of the Jacaranda trees. As you may know (or not) we also have them in the desert where I live although our season there is usually fairly short. And while I don’t have one in our yard I do appreciate their beauty…until the blossoms all start dropping and they are really messy! I never knew where they “came from” but I found that fascinating. Thanks! ~Kathy

    1. I’m not surprised that you have them where you live too. Sometimes I think I should knock on the door of anyone who has one in their yard and personally thank them. Despite the mess, they’ve chosen to share their beautiful tree with us.

  23. What a beautiful tree. San Diego is such a scenic location. I want to come back someday! We have Paw-Paw trees here in PA that have beautiful purple blooms in the spring. They are pretty too!

  24. Wow – those trees are gorgeous. Purple rain is a nice title for the post. I love that you shared a photo of the neighborhood all in bloom too. Our flowering trees are varied, (lilacs, flowering crab trees, maples, catalpas, dogwoods, etc.) just like the colors of oranges, yellows, reds, and browns they take on in the fall. The 4-5 months of bare-branched trees during the cold winter months have to have something splendid about them in the spring/summer to remind us why we keep living here in WI! 😉

    1. We have other flowering trees here too, but none as large and magnificent as the jacaranda. I do wish we could enjoy more of the fall colors in Southern California. Other than a few liquid ambers here and there, most trees stay green throughout the fall and winter. Every area has its pluses and minuses, doesn’t it?

  25. Thank you for sharing your lovely photos. Florida is very much like California in regards to our autumn foliage not looking that much different from summer…other than some flowering shrubs and trees that have a certain bloom time. There is one jacaranda tree in our neighborhood and it is lovely when in bloom but not near as large as yours.

    1. A couple of Florida residents have said that. I wonder if there is something about your climate that keeps the jacarandas smaller and not as prolific in their bloom cycle? Anyway, I’m glad you are able to enjoy the gorgeous violet blossoms too!

  26. The purply seasonal color is amazing, Janis. I’ve traveled to the La Jolla area many times but never seen these purple trees. I guess I always visited in the winter time (to get away from the East Coast cold!). Your photos are wonderful. And I even like the lavender paths once the blossoms fall. New England now is full of pinks and reds and yellows (roses and day lilies and rhododendrons and more) and purple lilacs and Iris. But nothing like your marvelous Jacaranda.

    1. This is such a lovely time of year! The jacaranda blossoms are only here for a short while, but they add a joyful cloud of color when they appear. I bet the colors where you live are spectacular too. Maybe next time you visit La Jolla, you’ll be able to see the jacarandas in full bloom.

  27. These trees are wonderful. I’d never heard of them before. Purple just doesn’t seem like a tree color. Thanks for enlightening me. 😍

  28. Having lived in tropical climates for over a decade I can tell you that much as I love not having winter, I do miss the spring and the fall and even snow (but definitely not the cold.)

    Ahhh the jacaranda tree! We had those in South Africa and I loved walking under them and enjoying their vibrant color. Was recently reminded of them when we arrived here in Mexico and spent a week in the mountains and they were in full bloom. So gorgeous.


  29. Wow! So beautiful. Purple was my Mom’s favorite color, so I especially love these flowers. Thanks for sharing and making me smile.

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