By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Washington, D.C. may have its cherry blossoms, but here in Mexico City the coming of springtime is punctuated by its own colorful burst of flowers, the annual blossoming of the capital’s violet- and lavender-hued jacaranda trees.
Usually in mid-March, but sometimes later or sometimes sooner, depending on the weather, the capital’s streets become awash in sumptuous shades of lilac and plumb as the city’s lush jacaranda trees come into full bloom.
Yes, the clusters of violet-blue trumpet flowers embraced by an ensemble of dark green fern-like foliage that grace the city this time of year herald in the first days of springtime with a melodious symphony of purple splendor.
But while Mexico City’s amethyst glory of jacarandas may today be seen as one of the capital’s most poignant and beautiful attractions, just like Washington’s cherry blossoms, they are not a native flora.
In fact, the jacaranda, which is a species of the bignonia family of flowering plants, was originally grown only in South America, specifically Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
But at the turn of the 20th century, then-Veracruz Governor Teodoro Dehesa Méndez paid a visit to Rio de Janeiro and was bewitched by the stunning heliotrope branches of Brazil’s urban jacaranda forests.
As a result, he decided to bring a handful of the trees’ seeds back home to Mexico.
The first Mexican jacarandas took bloom in Veracruz, where they flourished in the humid, tropical climate of that central eastern state.
Within a decade, jacaranda trees began to spring up in other areas across the country, including in the Valley of Mexico and the Federal District.
Today, they adorn the capital’s stately Paseo de la Reforma and Avenida Insurgentes, as well as the historic neighborhoods of Condesa, San Ángel, Lomas de Chapultepec, Polanco and Cuauhtémoc.
They can also be found in Mexico’s more tropical areas and central region, including the Yucatán, Campeche, Oaxaca and Guerrero.
The particular species found in Mexico City is the Jacaranda mimosifolia, or blue jacaranda.
This particular species is known for its vibrant shades of perse and mauve, as well as its broad, profusely flowering branches (which create a magnificent bouquet of colors, but can be annoying when its sticky sap oozes down onto cars and streetscapes and seeps into sidewalks and drainage systems).
But Mexico does not have sole claim as the adopted home of the Jacaranda mimosifolia.
Today, blue jacarandas can be found in countries all around the globe, including in Africa, Australia, Europe, the Caribbean and the United States.
And almost all of these nations have assimilated the jacaranda into their own flora portfolios, often rechristening the tree with a local name.
In the United States, it is called the Brazilian rosewood, in France, it is the flambouyant bleu, and in Spain, it goes by the name of flamboyán azul.
But a rose (or, in this case, a bignonia), by any other name, will still bloom as lovely.
And all of us who live here enjoy their empurpled beckoning of the springtime season.