Jacarandas

Each spring the tall jacaranda trees lining the Upcountry Maui roadsides begin their slow explosion of color.

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Story by Shannon Wianecki

Jacaranda

Imagine her in blue boas,
flamenco on a breeze.

Imagine
so we can’t forget.
At the tip of every twig
a castanet.

–from “Jacaranda,” a poem
by Taylor Graham

jacarandaAs the weather warms each spring, the tall jacaranda trees lining the Upcountry Maui roadsides begin their slow explosion of color. One by one, bare branches erupt in bursts of deep blue and luscious lilac. After a slight breeze, bell-shaped flowers paint Lower Kula Highway, delighting travelers on the way to Haleakala National Park or Tedeschi Winery.

Native to Northwestern Argentina and Bolivia, these flamboyant beauties have been cultivated throughout Hawai‘i since the early 1900s. They belong to the Bignoniaceae family, a showy collection of plants that includes the Caribbean trumpet tree (a common ornamental) and the African tulip (a pesky invader of East Maui’s forests). The jacaranda is considered a low-level invader itself, thanks to its papery, wind-dispersed seeds that easily take root in fields and gulches. Nevertheless, many consider the nonnative tree a spectacular addition to the landscape and look forward to the months during which Maui’s rolling green ranchlands are splashed with blues and purples.

Before summer rolls in and replaces the extraordinary blossoms with rather ordinary leaves, take a Sunday drive up Old Haleakala Highway. Better yet, bring a bike. You’ll enjoy the view and the flowers’ alluring scent. Look out for roadside easels as you cruise past; the tree is a favorite of plein-air painters.

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