Joining high school exposed me to a lot of things that before then had just remained ‘foreign’ concepts or were just far away from my grasp. One of this was trees. Having lived in a residential area with very few trees and most of them being the same, I did not give much thought to trees. High school brought trees into focus. The school was a bit old and had been started by the missionaries who wanted to replicate the surroundings of their motherland thus they ensured that they planted enough trees. Some were labelled with their scientific names but my interest in botany was cut short in my first year.
One of the dominant tree species was the eucalyptus. Dominant because they were close to the entrance of the school and thus everyone knew them. But the one that captivated me was the jacaranda tree (jacaranda mimosfolia). For about nine months in a year, the tree would be just there. For six months out of the nine, it would be leaf-bare. Looking emaciated and almost at the point of death. Then with the advent of Nairobi’s short rains in October, it would spring into life bearing small, pretty, purple flowers by the thousands. The purple would overshadow the green of the tiny leaves. If the trees were planted in a series/row, there would be a purple canopy only cut across by the brown of the branches.
As it would rain, the tree would also start ‘sweating’ and from specific points on its branches, water drops would fall. The October-November period marks the end of both the primary school education and secondary school education in Kenya. In October, the secondary school examination starts and runs for about a month while the primary school examination would run for about a week. The blooming of the jacaranda tree represented a significant period to thousands of candidates; a chance to continue with schooling or not to.
Being that time of the year, Nairobi’s areas that were previously occupied by the British are blooming all over with the purple flowers. Going down Valley Road is where the splendour can be seen. Other residential areas especially Woodley and Milimani estates have this kind of trees and it is just a pure wonder to see the purple flowers covering the ground; a purple carpet of sorts. But with mushrooming development all over Nairobi, these trees face a huge threat. They might soon be replaced by white-walled flats with red-bricked roofs and instead of purple carpets for children to tread on, will be replaced by ugly, grey cabro-paving blocks. Thika, the town that introduced me to the jacaranda tree, though has lots of trees that will hopefully be there for ages to come.
Image from here