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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Jacarandas Blaze the Way for Summer in Portugal

Updated: Jun 16


Eugénio de Andrade escreveu um poema: Não sei doutra gloria, doutro paraíso: à sua entrada os jacarandas estão em flor, um de cada lado./ E um sorriso, tranquila morada, à minha espera./ O espaço a toda a roda multiplica os seus espelhos, abre varandas para o mar./ É como nos sonhos mais pueris: posso voar quase rente ás nuvens altas – irmão dos pássaros -- , perder-me no ar. (Photo from NiT)

 

At one time, one of Portugal’s most translated writers, Eugénio de Andrade, shared space and broke bread in Coimbra with writer Miguel Torga and philosopher Eduardo Lourenço, all three future recipients of the Portuguese literary Camões Prize.

 

Perhaps it was from this time in Coimbra as a man and his time as a boy in Lisbon that the purplish-blue floral splashes of jacarandas lining the cities’ boulevards uplifted Eugénio de Andrade (1923-2005), moving him to write:


They are the ones who announce summer.

I don’t know of another glory, another paradise:

At its entrance the jacarandas

Are in bloom, one on each side.

And a smile, peaceful home,

Waiting for me.

The space all around

multiplies its mirrors, opens

balconies to the sea.

It’s like in the most childish dreams:

I can fly almost close to

the high clouds – brother of birds –,

get lost in the air.


The jacaranda is a tree native to Brazil and some other South American countries, according to Wilding: Rewilding Your Days (May 12, 2018). However, it has been adopted as an ornamental tree in many parts of the world, including the United States, Australia, South Africa and the Mediterranean.


Jacaranda mimosifolia came to Portugal in the 19th century from the Tagus River region in the western Brazilian state of Acre, reported Mensagem de Lisboa (May 2). The father of Portuguese botany, Félix Avelar Brotero (Santo Antão do Tojal, Loures 1744 – Belém, Lisbon 1828), promoted the sowing of the tree's seeds in Lisbon, where he directed the Jardin Botánica de Ajuda (Botanical Garden of Ajuda) from 1811 to 1826.

 

Dalila Espírito Santo, director of the Jardin Botánica de Ajuda from 2002 to 2019, confirmed that her predecessor, who published the first major Portuguese botanical treatise, Flora Lusitanica, was responsible. To encourage planting, she said that he promulgated:

 

“It is a beautiful tree for Lisbon.”


The noninvasive tree flowers between April and June, typically before the emergence of leaves, according to Wilding: Rewilding Your Days. Its branches hang heavy with bunches of purple blossoms. The fruits are hard and brown, flat like castanets, and they contain tiny seeds, which will take to the wind.


“If, for some reason, the blossoming escapes your sight now, remember that the tree will bloom again in September. More timidly, perhaps, due to the cold, without removing the leaves again so that the purplish-blue stands out,” according to Mensagem de Lisboa.


Just as some delight in the exotic tree’s beauty, others find reason for discord: the scent, unpleasant to some, and the matting of the sidewalks and parked cars with purple petals, reported Mensagem de Lisbon.


The tropical American trees are found in the warmer climes of Portugal, such as the island of Madeira, daring spectators to forget their seasonal performance.

 

I don’t know of another glory, another paradise:

At its entrance the jacarandas

Are in bloom, one on each side.

And a smile, peaceful home,

Waiting for me


“If, for some reason, it escapes your sight now, remember that the tree will bloom again in September. More timidly, perhaps, due to the cold, without removing the leaves again so that the purplish-blue stands out,” according to Mensagem de Lisboa.

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