Jacarandas in flower in Hyde Park, Perth
Jacarandas in flower in Hyde Park

In November, the jacaranda trees in Perth burst into purple-blue clouds of flowers, a colourful reminder that Christmas is not very far way.

As I was admiring those growing near our house yesterday, I wondered if Harriet Lenihan, one of the main characters in the book I’ve been writing, would have seen jacarandas in flower when she arrived in Perth in November 1897.

They’re not a native tree, but they’ve been grown in eastern Australia since the 1850s. (Thanks for the link Jenny.) The earliest mention I can find of jacarandas in Western Australia was an advertisement in May 1894. So perhaps Harriet would have seen a few growing in gardens, though probably not the magnificent avenues of trees that line some suburban streets today.

Advertisement for plant sale, including Jacarandas, 1894
The West Australian, Friday 25 May 1894

Speaking of street trees reminds me of a fascinating article posted by Jessica Barratt on her history blog The Dusty Box earlier this year. Apparently in 1899 the City of Perth had the brilliant (?) idea of planting lemon trees along St Georges Terrace, one of the city’s main streets. They thought the lemons produced would be a money spinner for the council. It wasn’t a very long-lived experiment. You can read Jessica’s article here.


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Streets of purple and lemon