Monday, October 13, 2008

The Exam Trees



It's springtime and the jacarandas are blooming.  Here are some pictures that I took this morning on the UQ campus as I walked from my car to the office.  Jacarandas are so plentiful here in Brisbane that I thought they were native trees.  But, according to the ever-trusty Wikipedia, they are not.  I used to see a lot in Southern California and in Florida, and it is from the Americas where these trees have emigrated.

In the Wikipedia entry there is also an interesting description about the importance of jacarandas to UQ students and other Brisbane residents:
The city of Brisbane in Australia has a local reputation of having a significant population of Jacaranda trees. The University of Queensland in the city's inner west has a very high concentration of the tree, and due to the impressive display of purple flowers in mid-Spring, which wind up littering vast sections of the suburbs, local folklore claims that "one won't start studying for exams until the jacarandas have molted". At Sydney University there exists a similar expression "by the time the jacaranda in the main quadrangle flowers, it's too late to start studying for exams".

This has led to the slang name "exam tree" being attached to the plant. At the University of Queensland students even maintain a joke superstition that if a Jacaranda bloom falls on their head during exam time, they will fail an exam. The bad luck can be broken by catching another bloom before it hits the ground.

The reason for the Jacaranda's proliferation in Brisbane is often attributed to the thirties and forties, when new mothers leaving the maternity hospital were given a jacaranda sapling to plant.

Jacarandas in bloom have become closely associated with Brisbane and South East Queensland. The Brisbane City Council have used jacarandas to line avenues, and commercial developments in some areas, particularly along the Brisbane River have incorporated jacarandas into their landscape design. The trees are common in parks throughout the city, most notably in a long curved avenue in the inner city New Farm Park, in Goodna, and in private gardens. Brisbane's hilly geography allows views of the city and suburbs in which the brightly coloured flowers can be easily seen for miles. The jacaranda has become so much a part of the city's identity that contemporary art, particularly of streetscapes, often incorporates the flowering jacaranda, despite the fact that it only flowers for approximately six weeks from September through October.
Exams don't start this semester until November, so I guess that means bad luck for everyone.

4 comments:

Megan said...

Where I grew up down in Adelaide, they bloom a bit later so I always thought of them as "Christmas trees". I learnt of the "exam tree" label shortly after I moved to Brisbane... I am so amazed to learn that there is actually a wikipedia entry on it though, I thought it was just a figment of my then-boyfriend's mind!

Mooselet said...

I love the jacaranda trees! I have a small one on my property and can't wait for it to get larger. Thanks for the lovely pics.

Anonymous said...

Hey wouldn't you know, I received a Where's George bill just days after you posted about it. Hadn't seen one in years.I remember you were really into it about the time I started at the Port. Andrew
Here is the link: oops I tried to post it and it is too many characters. I'll send an email.

The Prof said...

We just need to figure out how to stop the jacandaras from dropping their petals...perhaps there is a genetic modification in the works!