We Can Thank This Woman for SoCal’s Familiar Jacaranda Trees

It’s officially purple rain season.

You can always count on the jacaranda tree—with its vibrant purple flowers—to add some welcome color to pre-summer days filled with May Gray and June Gloom. While we don’t recommend parking under one during blooming season, we nevertheless enjoy those few weeks of late-spring splendor. And we can thank pioneering female horticulturalist Kate Sessions for spreading that sunshine around Southern California.

According to Los Angeles Magazine, the San Franciscan took a teaching job in San Diego that set her lifelong passion for landscapes in motion. “She was fascinated with plants growing in exotic parts of the world, and was experimenting with bringing seeds and plants from Europe, Mexico, and South America, as well as cultivating native California plants. She became the most sought-after landscape designer for fashionable homeowners and residential developers in the fast-growing city.

“In 1892, she made the deal that would change California’s landscape forever. Sessions leased 32 acres of land owned by the city of San Diego, which was then known as City Park. The field was barren, pest-ridden, and lacked any formal landscaping. Sessions agreed to amend the situation by planting 100 new trees per year in the park and 300 trees per year elsewhere on public lands around the city. In exchange, she could use the property as a kind of laboratory and growing field. That property was filled with cypress, eucalyptus, palms, and jacaranda—and, along the way, was re-dubbed Balboa Park.”

Once people witnessed the beauty of the jacarandas in bloom, its popularity increased and new trees started sprouting up throughout California, especially in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

You can read more about Sessions and her beloved jacarandas here.

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