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Encyclopedia of Stanford Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

Jacaranda mimosifolia. JACARANDA. Brazil
BIGNONIACEAE (Bignonia family)

This magnificent tree is famous for its 2-inch lavender bells in summer and the carpet of fallen blossoms that forms around it. Before flowering, the foliage, which is extremely finely divided, is also highly attractive. The wood is purple with dark venation. There were very few on campus but attention has been given to establishing more of them. Two insignificant specimens grow near the dawn redwoods on the path leading into Frost Amphitheater at its southeast corner. A full-grown specimen may be detected in summer on Cabrillo Avenue near Dolores Street. In the 1990s one was planted in the inner northwest island of the Inner Quad and there was a mass planting in the four semi-protected courts adjacent to Bowdoin Street (enclosed by the Rains Houses), where about 60 have survived. Several also were planted opposite Pearce Mitchell Houses on Salvatierra Street. There is one in the northeast corner of Sequoia Hall courtyard on Via Pueblo. Examples grow in the residential area at 909 and 973 Cottrell Way. In Palo Alto a beautiful specimen probably planted in the 1930s is nestled in the courtyard of the Roth Building at 300 Homer Avenue.

The round, flat, seed cases, more than 2 inches across when ripe, with a bump in the middle for the seed, are in good supply at Rains Houses. They can be extremely difficult to open by hand. You should try. I am not talking about unripe, aborted, or spent pods -- only hard ripe pods that have not yet opened of their own accord. While the fruit is not as heavily into protective armor as its compatriot the Brazil nut, the ancestors of the jacaranda clearly had something serious in mind as they evolved. If you feel you will be successful in opening a closed capsule, first examine the outside bumps and form an idea of what you will see.

The Portuguese pronunciation for jacaranda is zha-ka-ra-DAH.

Illustration: McMinn, Howard E. and Evelyn Maino. 1951. An illustrated manual of Pacific coast trees; with lists of trees recommended for various uses on the Pacific coast by H. W. Shepherd. 2d ed. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.

Illustrations (links open new windows): gallery

Additions/Revisions: Revisions: Trees sold in the nursery trade as J. mimosifolia can be the similar J. acutifolia--native to dry valleys of central and northern Chile-- or hybrids (according to the authors of Trees of Santa Barbara (2005).

Name derivation, genus | species Jacaranda is from the Portuguese name for the genus | flowers like a mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)

Related material: Canopy Trees for Palo Alto Tree Library | Stanford Grounds Plant Information Sheet, List No. 7, Page 13.

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