Jacaranda, University of Sydney

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Jacaranda, University of Sydney
Lilac Flowers of Doom! - 15522077678.jpg
The jacaranda in the main quadrangle at the University of Sydney (2014)
Jacaranda, University of Sydney is located in Sydney
Jacaranda, University of Sydney
Jacaranda, University of Sydney
Location in greater Sydney
SpeciesJacaranda mimosifolia
LocationUniversity of Sydney Quadrangle, Camperdown campus of The University of Sydney, Parramatta Road, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Coordinates33°53′10″S 151°11′21″E / 33.88611°S 151.18917°E / -33.88611; 151.18917Coordinates: 33°53′10″S 151°11′21″E / 33.88611°S 151.18917°E / -33.88611; 151.18917
Diameter18 metres (59 ft)
(canopy, 2016 felled tree)
Date seeded
Date felled28 October 2016 (2016-10-28)
CustodianThe University of Sydney

The jacaranda was a historically significant specimen of Jacaranda mimosifolia tree that stood in the south-eastern corner of the University of Sydney main quadrangle, and now describes its clone replanted in the same location.

The first planting was in 1928 by Associate Professor Eben Gowrie Waterhouse, and replaced several times in the 1930s. Blooming in late spring at the end of the academic year, it became closely associated with examination time at the university. It has formed the background to many events, and the original tree was on the City of Sydney's Significant Tree Register. On 28 October 2016 the old tree died and fell over, aged approximately 77-85 years.[1][2] On 20 July 2017 the University announced the replacement of the jacaranda with a genetically identical clone, and a native Illawarra flame tree in the opposite corner.[3]

Original tree[edit]


Jacaranda in November 2014

The tree was located in the corner of the quadrangle close to where Philosophy classes used to be held. It was planted by Eben Gowrie Waterhouse, who was McCaughey associate professor of German and comparative literature and also a camellia expert. His interest in horticulture and landscape design influenced the design of the gardens at the university.[4] He is credited with turning the main quadrangle where the jacaranda grew "from an unsightly mess into a dignified area".[5] Waterhouse continued to be engaged for many years on beautification schemes involving tree planting for the university, in the city beyond the university, as well as in other cities beyond Sydney. In an address given in Newcastle in 1936, Waterhouse said that "beautification of urban and suburban areas ranked among the finest forms of community service" and that in tree planting, the preservation of trees and the creative work were both important.[6] In 1966 he received a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society, London.[5]

Stories about the difficulty of establishing the tree circulated for many years. Students were blamed for several failed efforts after young trees were ripped out and frustrated Committee members passed "motions deploring the actions of 'irresponsible vandals'".[7] Vandalism concerning the jacaranda was included in newspaper reports as late as 1939.[1][8] An alternative view is that staff stole young trees for their own gardens.[9] Eventually, the planting succeeded and over its life, the jacaranda's canopy grew to a width of 18 metres (59 ft), becoming both "grand" and "iconic".[9]


The flowers of the jacaranda carpeting the lawn in 2015

Sydney University's jacaranda formed the backdrop to many public and private events that took place in the quadrangle, including graduations and weddings. In the opinion of Mark Scott, it was "the most famous tree in education".[10] The university's landscape and grounds manager said "I don't think the quadrangle would be the space it is without that tree."[9]

The tree was well-loved in spite of its association with the examination period in November when jacarandas all over Sydney come into flower. Accepted wisdom was that exam failure was inevitable for a student who had not yet begun to study by the time its purple blooms appeared.[11][12][13]

In 2005 the jacaranda was added to the list of historic or environmentally significant trees in the City of Sydney as "one of Sydney's best known significant trees".[14][15] It was known as "a living asset".[6] In 2012, the city's chief arborist placed it in the Register's Top 10.[14] The trees on the Register are selected on the basis of their "historical, cultural, social, ecological or outstanding visual and aesthetic appeal".[15] Other varieties of tree on the Register near to the university include Moreton Bay figs in Alexandria Park, Alexandria and Observatory Hill; Brush box trees in Avenue Road, Glebe; Washington palms in Farrer Place, Sydney; Plane trees on Bourke Street, Surry Hills; and Dragon's blood trees in Cook and Phillip Park.


In 2016 the tree died aged approximately 77-85 years,[1][2] possibly of ganoderma fungus, and fell over on 28 October.[16][2] It was cut up and removed the following day.[14] The university issued a press release reminding students that the tree had begun to bloom and wished "them all well for their final weeks of study for 2016".[17]

Current tree[edit]

Replacement jacaranda blooming in November 2019


The university had been advised in 2014 that the original tree was nearing the end of its life. Aware of its significance, the university administration had taken cuttings and maintained three "emergency" specimens.[9][18] The resulting clones would subsequently enable it to be replaced with genetically identical stock.[17]


In July 2017 the cloned tree was replanted; the tree is a graft from the old tree on a jacaranda rootstock.[19] The replacement tree thrived and in the flowering season of 2019, it was blooming.

The university also planted a native flame tree alongside the replacement jacaranda in recognition of the Gadigal people on whose traditional lands the university is located.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Destruction at University". The Sydney Morning Herald (31, 637). 25 May 1939. p. 10. Retrieved 31 October 2016 – via Trove, National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ a b c Bell, Andrew (29 October 2016). "The Jacaranda tree in the Quad has died". Honi Soit. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  3. ^ "9 things you should know about the Quad's new residents". The University of Sydney. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  4. ^ "Tree Planting and Landscape". The Newcastle Sun (5688). New South Wales, Australia. 6 March 1936. p. 6. Retrieved 30 October 2016 – via Trove, National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ a b O'Neil, W. M. (1990). "Waterhouse, Eben Gowrie (1881–1977)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Beauty in Trees". Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate. 10 March 1936. p. 5. Retrieved 31 October 2016 – via Trove, National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "Tree Destruction at University". The Sydney Morning Herald (31, 365). 12 July 1938. p. 13. Retrieved 31 October 2016 – via Trove, National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "News In Brief: Joke Loses its Point". The Barrier Miner. LI (15, 240). New South Wales, Australia. 12 July 1938. p. 1 (Home Edition). Retrieved 31 October 2016 – via Trove, National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ a b c d Phillips, Nicky (16 November 2014). "University of Sydney clones iconic quadrangle jacaranda tree". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  10. ^ Scott, Mark (29 October 2016). "Vale: the most famous tree in Australian education. Sydney Uni quad's jacaranda". Twitter. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  11. ^ Hunt, Elle (29 October 2016). "Sydney University bereft over death of jacaranda tree: 'say it isn't so'". Guardian Australia. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  12. ^ Hennessy, James (29 October 2016). "VALE: Sydney Uni's Beloved Jacaranda Tree Bit The Dust Overnight". Pedestrian Daily. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  13. ^ Savage, Jay (31 October 2016). "Australians mourn tree that 'failed' university students". BBC News. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  14. ^ a b c Nguyen, Han (29 October 2016). "Students past and present mourn University of Sydney's famous jacaranda tree". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  15. ^ a b "University of Sydney, University Avenue". Significant Trees. City of Sydney. 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  16. ^ Kembrey, Melanie (30 October 2016). "What brought down Sydney University's jacaranda tree". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  17. ^ a b "University community mourns jacaranda tree collapse" (Press release). University of Sydney. 29 October 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  18. ^ McMahon, Ed (21 October 2014). "A botanical expose". Honi Soit. Archived from the original on 6 August 2015. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  19. ^ Singhal, Pallavi (20 July 2017). "University of Sydney unveils genetically-identical clone of iconic quadrangle jacaranda". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  20. ^ Cormack, Lucy (11 November 2016). "University of Sydney's beloved jacaranda to be replaced by April 2017 alongside a new native". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 November 2016.

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