Johannesburg has over 10 million trees and is sometimes called the world’s largest urban man-made forest (although this has never been proved, we’ll still take it) and every year from October, the city turns a bright shade of purple as some of those trees come to life!
Johannesburg has become well known for its Jacarandas, but the trees are actually indigenous to South America; their history in South Africa can be traced back to as early as 1880 when they were imported from Argentina.
Before gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand in 1886, there were several farmers in the area. These farmers brought seeds from the Cape and planted Oak, Walnut and Jacaranda trees.
According to Smith in The Star of 1945, the first Jacaranda to be planted in the city was at Charlton Terrace in Doornfontein. Smith reported that Tree entrepreneur William Nelson had nurseries in Turffontein where “by 1896 he grew 30-million trees, shrubs and plants for general distribution”.
Nelson, whose business was known as Nelsonia Nurseries, apparently planted 106 kilometres of trees along the streets of the newly established suburb of Kensington. The task took six months to complete. It’s believed to be the first time street trees were planted in South Africa on such a large scale.
Jacarandas are exotics, have been declared invasive plants and are now prohibited for propagation and planting by law. They are capable of withstanding the test of time, however, with a life expectancy of up to 200 years if cared for properly.