Local News

Purple Flowering Jacarandas Blossom in Fullerton

With spring coming to a close and June Gloom creeping in, this is the time of year when people driving through Fullerton can see flowers blooming on the city’s jacaranda trees, creating purple canopies over some neighborhoods. They’re beautiful to look at, but not easy to clean up after they fall on your car or yard. Following a reader suggestion, I decided to take a deeper look into the jacaranda trees in Fullerton.

Jacaranda trees in Fullerton.

According to a 2015 Los Angeles Times article written by Shelby Grad, “Fullerton held its first Jacaranda Festival in 1931, drawing a big crowd.” The festival’s theme was “the quest for the most beautiful blue in all the world,” referring to the lavender blue blooms of the jacaranda trees that can be found throughout North Orange County and other cities across Southern California.

These trees are called Jacaranda mimosifolia, also commonly known as blue jacaranda. J. mimosifolia is one of the 49 different species of flowering jacaranda trees. They can grow to a maximum height of 50 feet and their canopy width is roughly 15 to 30 feet. These types of jacarandas are from the seasonally dry tropics of South America (southern Bolivia and north-western Argentina). According to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s UFEI-SelecTree webpage for the “Jacaranda mimosifolia Tree Record,” this particular type of jacaranda “famously covers Pretoria, South Africa (also known as Jacaranda City),” where it is regarded as an invasive species. J. mimosifolia is considered an invasive species because the trees can out-compete native plants, forming thickets of seedlings beneath planted trees from which they may expand and exclude other vegetation. This type of jacaranda is also grown naturally in different areas of Hawai’i. However, here in California, these jacarandas hardly ever reproduce on their own. The jacaranda trees’ leaves fall in the spring and return in summer as the flowers fade.

Fallen Jacaranda flower.

Blue jacarandas were first planted in Southern California roughly a century ago, and many more were planted in Orange County with the building of homes post-World War II, according to an article by Jeff Gritchen for the OC Register. In Fullerton, we even have a street named Jacaranda Place, after the trees. The purple flowers found on these trees tend to blossom around this time of year when June Gloom hits because the humidity is higher, and temperatures are not incredibly hot. While these flowers look great, their petals can be sticky. When the trees grow tall enough to hang over the streets, their petals may fall and stick to the cars parked along the street, or the road and sidewalks.

The jacaranda flowers are beautiful, lavender blue and appear in dense clusters with often the entire tree in bloom, the ground later turning bluish-purple as the flowers fall. Walking down Jacaranda Place on an overcast morning in June, I saw quite a few lavender blue flowers scattered across the sidewalk and on various lawns, as well as on the windshields of parked cars along both sides of the street. The jacarandas lining both sides of the street had blocky, light brown to light gray bark, and the dense foliage from the trees provided shade while I was walking on a rather humid morning. There are plenty of jacarandas in other parts of Fullerton as well. I spotted quite a few blooming on Brookdale Place, Valencia Drive, Ash Avenue and Stanford Drive. There were also several jacarandas located on the Fullerton College campus that were visible from the street, and some on both sides of Harbor Boulevard right by the historic “Welcome to Fullerton” bridge by the train station.

Jacarandas line historic streets in Fullerton.

I reached out to the City of Fullerton’s Landscape Maintenance Division, which is part of the Public Works Department, to see if I could find out how many jacaranda trees are in the city and how the City maintains the trees. Phil Kisor, Landscape Supervisor for the City of Fullerton, wrote via email that there are 1,893 jacaranda trees in public areas. “The oldest area of Jacaranda trees in Fullerton will be found on Valencia Dr. in one of Fullerton’s preservation zones,” said Kisor. “This area was developed in the 1920’s.” The city maintains Fullerton’s urban forest on a four year trim cycle. He said, “All trees are pruned in accordance with the ANSI A300 standard for pruning trees. The work includes an inspection from the trunk flare to the outermost branch in the tree canopy, removal of dead and damaged branches as they appear, and selective removal of crossing branches to improve structure.” Interestingly, I discovered that the oldest jacaranda tree in the city is located on West Ash. According to Kisor, this particular jacaranda tree is a great example, with excellent growth and canopy cover, that can be used for reference. It is estimated that the trees in this area of the city may be up to 100 years old.

Fallen Jacaranda flowers on a sidewalk.

2 replies »

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