Almost all of Maui’s flowering trees were imported here from around the world.
One of the most impressive of Maui’s flowering trees is the Jacaranda.The story of Upcountry Maui’s Jacaranda trees can be traced to Elmer F Cravalho.
He grew up in the Keokea area where the first trees seem to have appeared. These brilliant lavender purple trees were originally found in Brazil but became widespread in many tropical areas of the world including the American South, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and as far away as Africa, Pakistan and Portugal. As the upcountry area was settled early on in Maui’s modern history by Portuguese farmers and ranchers it is probably how the tree found it’s way here from Portugal. Mr Cravalho grew up to become a legislator in the 1950’s and eventually Mayor of Maui County from 1969 to 1979. In the late 1950’s he convinced the Territorial Highway Commission officials to plant Jacaranda trees along the upcountry highways in the Kula and Pukalani areas.
Jacaranda trees can grow to a height of between 60 and 90+ feet and have a canopy spread as large as 30 feet. seedlings can take up to two years to bloom and their beautiful twisting branches have made it a popular world wide ornamental tree in frost free climates. During the year the Jacaranda slowly loses its leaves until they flower in the spring, fruit (which becomes a seed pod) and begin dropping their leaves again.
The blossoms have a mild honey smell to them. However by the time they drop their flowers they no longer have a scent. The flowers grow up to two inches long and are grouped in 12 inch bunches called panicles. These groupings make the tree look as though it is fully loaded with large flowers when it is actually lots of small flowers.
They drop their flowers between May and mid June creating a carpet of purple and blue beneath the trees. They can reach a height of 25 to 30 feet in 7 to 14 years depending on the amount of water. There are Jacaranda in other parts of the world that are over 200 years old!
The folklore surrounding this tree comes from the fact that it blooms in the spring and students often refer to it as the “exam tree” because of final exams. Legend has it that if a Jacaranda flower falls on a students head, they will pass all their exams.
Today these magnificent trees announce the arrival of spring and add splashes of color to an already beautiful upcountry drive. Because of the many climate zones in Maui, especially along the slopes of Haleakala, Jacaranda can bloom at separate times throughout the spring. The blooming usually starts in the lower elevations around Pukalani and Makawao in April with the upper elevation trees in Kula blooming in May.
Maui’s Royal Poinciana Trees
A native of Madagascar where it is rare and a bright yellow, the Royal Poinciana Trees on Maui are mostly bright orange when in bloom. This ornamental tree is cultivated in tropical climates worldwide because of it’s beauty and size. It is also known as the Flamboyant or Flame tree and can reach heights of 20 to 30 feet or more. It is a legume, which means it is a cousin to beans and peas and has nitrogen fixing abilities which improves the soil. My favorite ones grow in Kihei and line many streets providing an amazingly colorful canopy. Although there are many flowering trees on Maui, this is one of the largest. They flower mostly in the summer months and are large enough to offer beautiful color filled shade in the hot tropical afternoons of Kihei.
These are just a few of the amazingly beautiful Maui flowering trees you will encounter throughout the island. Be sure to have your camera ready at all times because you never know what kind of flowering trees may be right around the corner!
Aloha Nui Loa
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