Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Jacaranda - Who knows where it came from?

Jacaranda - Where did it come from?

I was asked where the Jacaranda and the Poinciana came from by a friend - he said Madagascar? I wasn't sure so hence this little article on the Blue Haze Tree or "Get ready it's exam time tree"!
Below is a photo of the particular Jacaranda we were discussing:
A broken limb off a Jacaranda nearly 20 meters long
 Now to the history of it's origin - and this is where it gets interesting as Stirling Macoboy (who my friend uses a gospel) didn't read his copy that day -
"the Jacaranda is found naturally in the high and dry deserts of Brazil."
But as investigations take us further - the fact that it has been introduced all over the world as Baron von Ludwig  did in Cape Town about 1829. Time of arrival in Australia was considered around 1900 - but it is thought to be earlier than this. It was almost certainly the first jacaranda to be grown in Australia. Walter Hill, the Gardens' Superintendent, planted it in 1864. It remained in the Gardens until 1979, when it was blown over during a cyclone ― part of the trunk is now located at the offices of the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. Under the jacaranda (see below) 1903 has been one of the best loved works in the Queensland Art Gallery since it entered the Collection in 1903. Godfrey Rivers completed the painting 13 years after he arrived in Australia from the United Kingdom. The work depicts Rivers and Miss Selina Bell, who later became his wife, taking tea under the shade of a jacaranda tree in full bloom. The tree was a landmark in Brisbane's Botanic Gardens, which adjoined the grounds of the Brisbane Technical College where Rivers taught from 1891 to 1915. It's worth a visit to the Mt Cootha Botanical Gardens to see this specimen - and the painting below is on display at Queensland Art Gallery.

R. Godfrey Rivers | England/Australia 1859-1925 | Under the jacaranda 1903 | Oil on canvas | 143.4 x 107.2cm | Purchased 1903 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

The main street of the town of Red Cliffs, Victoria, Australia (part of the Calder Highway) was named Jacaranda Street in the original town plans of the early 1920s and Jacaranda trees have since been planted to line this street. So they had to have been in Australia for Town Planners to have designated street names after them! Ipswich, Grafton and Brisbane have also had a long history of Jacarandas. In South Africa their love extends to students that start studying hard when the Jacaranda starts flowering as they do every year that coincide with end of year exams! South Africa's love of Jacaranda's is similar to our own but with legend - they have this little legend which has not yet been proven:
University of Pretoria and legend has it that if a flower from the Jacaranda tree drops on your head, you will pass all your exams.
Here's a photo of Jacarandas in Zimbabwe - South Africa.
Jacaranda in flower in Harare, Zimbabwe - could be Grafton Australia.
There are so many stories regarding the Jacaranda - and its contribution to the gardens of Australia has been invaluable!  Another article will describe the botanical information of beautiful tree from Brazil, Peru, Argentina or Bolivia (Oh - and I put in Madagascar for my friend)?

Use the poll on the right to vote where you think it originated from? A clue is in the name Jacaranda mimosifolia!  Poll Open Now

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Pōhutukawa - What's in a Name

Metrosideros - what a great genus!

This beautiful group of shrubs, vines and trees are in the Order Myrtales and Family Myrtaceae which means they are a close relative of the Gum Tree (Eucalyptus) yet there are no native Australian species of Metrosideros.
NZ Xmas Bush or pōhutukawa
This showy group of plants in the genus Metrosideros comprises of about 50 known species in 3 subgenus:
  1. Mearnsia, 24 or 25 species, trees, shrubs (some epiphytic) and vines, with red, pink or white flowers;
  2. Metrosideros, 26 species, trees and shrubs, flowers mostly red, but some species have yellow or white flowers;
  3. Carpolepis, 3 species of rainforest trees from New Caledonia, all with bright yellow flowers.
New Zealand has only 12 species of Metrosideros although it is through that this group all originated from there in the late Cretaceous period after breaking off from Gondwana Land. Hawaii has five, and Papua has four with the remainder scattered across small islands of the Pacific, with one outsider described from South Africa.

The name Metrosideros comes from Greek - metra meaning "heartwood" and sideron meaning "iron! Hence the term ironwood as the it was used in carving by the original New Zealanders the Maori! The Maori also named Metrosideros excelsa as the pōhutukawa which means "sprinkled with spray" - as it describes the plants habit of clinging to salt water cliff faces and being constanly exposed to the marine environment. In mid-summer in the southern Hemisphere the pōhutukawa is covered in flowers and hence the easier name of New Zealand Xmas Bush! The photo above is of metrosideros excelsa and even within this species the leaf colour can vary from leathery grey to dark almost shiny green! Normally the underside is always a silvery colour.

The other species (also NZ) of NZ Xmas Bush is metrosideros kermadecensis which is mainly sold today as the varigated form with also a wide variety of colours.

metrosideros kermadecensis
Metrosideros polymorpha  - or the Ohi'a Lehua is from the Hawaiian Islands and is found growing up to 35 meters high. When these large trees are covered in red vivid blanket of flowers - you can understand the Hawaiians declaring it sacred to the VOLCANO goddess called PELE!
ōhiʻa lehua  or Metrosideros polymorpha