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9 things you should know about the Quad's new residents

20 July 2017
Two new trees have taken root to replace our much-loved jacaranda

The University of Sydney’s famous jacaranda tree has been replaced with a cloned jacaranda as well as a native Flame tree.

For almost 90 years, the iconic ‘Waterhouse’ jacaranda that graced the University of Sydney Quadrangle was the backdrop for thousands of graduation, and many other, photos.

Now a new jacaranda sits adjacent to a native Flame tree to create an even more glorious shot. So while you’re waiting for them to bloom this spring, here are nine things you should know about the new residents of the Quad...and another interesting little fact.

1. Tree's company

The Flame tree is often used as a companion plant to the jacaranda, as they are both deciduous and both flower in late spring creating a spectacular display of purple and scarlet blooms.

2. What’s in a name?

  • The jacaranda (Jacaranda Mimosifolia) tree is also known as ‘Black Poui’, ‘Blue Jacaranda’,  ‘the fern tree’ or simply ‘jacaranda’. The name jacaranda means ‘fragrant’ and is believed to originate from Guarani, an indigenous language of South America.
  • The Illawarra Flame (Brachychiton Acerifolius) tree is also known as ‘kurrajong’ or simply ‘flame tree’. The tree takes its name from its striking bright red bell-shaped bloom.

3. Home and away

  • The Illawarra Flame tree is native to subtropical regions on the east coast of Australia, including the Illawarra region in New South Wales.
  • The jacaranda is native to the dry, high plains of Brazil and Argentina.

4. Growing up

  • Flame trees generally grow to a height of around 20 metres, but can grow twice that size.
  • The jacaranda can grow to more than 30 metres high. Grafton in NSW boasts Australia’s largest – measuring 30 metres high, with a six metre circumference and a 36 metre crown.

5. Flame trees can be fickle

Unlike the more reliable jacaranda, the Flame tree’s bloom can be a bit fickle. While they tend to flower best after a hot, dry summer, flowering is variable – sometimes they only flower on one side, or they may flower one year but not the next.

6. Purple rain

The striking purplish blue bell-shaped flowers of the jacaranda usually appear for up to two months, before dropping to form a stunning lavender carpet. One story credits their abundance in Sydney to the efforts of a hospital matron who in the 1900s began a tradition of sending newborns home with a jacaranda seedling; while a less romantic reason perhaps lies in the fact the trees were a popular civic plant in the beautification programs of the early 20th century up to the 1950s and 1960s.

7. Not just a pretty face

The Flame tree’s yellow seeds were carefully toasted before being eaten by Indigenous Australians. The soft spongy wood and inner bark was also used in the Illawarra region to make nets and fishing lines, while the timber was used in artifacts.

8. Try and try and try, again

The iconic ‘Waterhouse’ jacaranda tree previously located in the Quadrangle was planted in 1928 by Sydney academic - and keen horticulturalist - EG Waterhouse. It was the professor’s third bid to successfully grow a jacaranda in the space. In 2014, cuttings were taken from the original Waterhouse Jacaranda and grafted onto the base of genetically related trees, one of which is now located in the Quad.

9. Want to grow one at home?

  • A very hardy plant, the jacaranda prefers a sunny position, rich well-drained soil, and protection from wind and frost when young.
  • The Flame tree will grow best in warm climates in a sunny spot, with well-drained fertile soil and protection from wind and frost.

…and that other interesting little fact

The University of Sydney’s main campus has around 28 hectares of open space, including more than 2,000 trees, 71 percent of which are native, spread across Darlington and Camperdown.

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