An Ode to Joburg in October

by | Oct 19, 2022 | Johannesburg, Tours | 28 comments

I don’t usually complain about life in Joburg, at least not publicly. But there’s been a lot to complain about lately. The city’s infrastructure has collapsed, resulting in horrifyingly frequent power and water outages. Potholes have grown into jacuzzi-sized pits and rather than fixing them, the city often fills the pits with dirt. At least half the city’s traffic and street lights are out. The economy is terrible, poverty is rife, and crime is getting worse, not better. Joburg mayors keep getting ousted and I’m not even sure who’s in charge anymore.

All these horrors are happening and it’s getting harder and harder to look away. And yet…I also can’t look away from the dazzling spectacle of Joburg in October.

Street in Waverly with jacarandas
Joburg in October: A dazzling purple spectacle.

Every year in October, the temperature in Joburg rises (quite a bit more steeply than usual this year, but let’s put the climate change panic aside for a moment) and the jacaranda trees start to bloom. At first it’s just a hint of purple — a clump of flowers here and there at the top of a particularly ambitious tree.

Sometimes the trees get off to a slow start and we worry it’s a bad jacaranda year — that the blossoms will let us down, just like the city government. But always, over the course of another week or two, the jacarandas come through. The purple spreads, then deepens, and then entire streets become enshrouded in puffy violet clouds.

Jacarandas on 9th Street in Melville
9th Street, Melville: One of my favorite jacaranda streets.

As soon as the blooms pop out, they also begin to fall. The blossoms drop quickly on windy afternoons — like real, purple rain — creating the magical illusion of a purple carpet below a purple ceiling.

Purple above and below
Purple, above and below, in Westcliff.
Purple Wescliff
More of the same.

I used to feel sad when I saw purple blossoms piling up on the streets, thinking the falling flowers signaled the looming end of peak jacaranda season. But that’s the thing about Joburg in October: It lasts longer than you might expect. These jacarandas have staying power and the trees keep blooming for weeks, even as the blossoms fall. Joburg in October sometimes lasts well into November.

Peak Joburg in October

Last Sunday I realized the purple peak had begun. I got into my car in the late afternoon and drove slowly through Joburg’s older northern suburbs, searching for the best places to get out and wander. Other people were around, doing the same thing I was doing, which made me feel safe.

Jacaranda photos in progress
Knox Street, Waverly: There’s a family taking photos in the distance.
Jacarandas in Waverly
Also in Waverly.
Blooming jacaranda in Oaklands
Jacaranda-lined streets are nice but I also like a good lone jacaranda. I spotted this one in Oaklands.
Cycling through a Parkview street - Joburg in October
Cycling through the jacarandas in Parkview.
Jacaranda photoshoot in progress
A jacaranda photoshoot in progress.

It was warm and my car windows were open; the sweet smell of jasmine wafted into my nose. The sun was about to set and it felt like rain. (The rains didn’t come that afternoon. But we’re finally getting the first heavy rains of the season right now, as I type this, together with that amazing first-rain smell — another great aspect of Joburg in October.) I played Taylor Swift loudly on my shitty car stereo and gulped deep lungfuls of air. I was happy.

Thank you, Joburg in October.

Jacaranda Walk Coming Soon

Quick post-script: A week from this Saturday, I’m hosting a jacaranda walk through Rosebank with the Johannesburg In Your Pocket Guide. I led one of these walks last year — it was really fun and I think this year is going to be even better. I highly recommend signing up now before the walk fills up.

I’ll have more on the Joburg jacarandas in a couple of weeks.

28 Comments

  1. Albert

    Yeah, sadly the jacarandas seem to be the only highlight amongst so much gloom in the city right now. Beautiful pics.

    Reply
      • Bev Hammrich

        Gorgeous photos. These are some of the most beautiful trees in the world. Thank you!

        Reply
          • Lara

            It was lovely meeting you on our family photo shoot walk… and now I follow your blog! Its fantastic!

          • 2summers

            Hi Lara, oh yay! I’m glad we found each other 🙂

  2. Nancy McDaniel

    There is nothing more beautiful than streets lined with jacarandas in October. I always loved them in Harare too.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yes! They come out earlier there.

      Reply
    • 2summers

      Thanks! The jacarandas miss you 🙂

      Reply
  3. maarten

    I agree that you sometimes have to find your highlights in nature. Jozi is really a beautiful city these days with all the blooming Jacarandas. If the endless water problems and load shedding wouldn’t be there Jozi really would be a world-class African City. Now I’m not sure how to call this city…………

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yep, the water problems especially are very scary. At least it’s raining now!

      Reply
  4. Graeme Adamson

    Gorgeous pics, and good points.

    Reply
  5. Peggy Laws

    The jacarandas are stunning and seem to be very early this year. Nice post!

    Reply
  6. AutumnAshbough

    You find your joy where you can. Well done. Those pictures are amazing.

    Reply
  7. Ruth

    They are splendid trees and you’ve photographed them so beautifully Heather! One thing you’ve not mentioned though is they lovely crunching noise car wheels make when you drive not too fast over the fallen flowers!! ????

    Reply
    • 2summers

      That is very nice, now that you mention it.

      Reply
    • Julia

      Oh I love driving over the petals and hearing them pop!

      Reply
  8. Sasha/Sonya Sargeant Hitchner

    Thanks for the pictures. I lived in Illovo, and I miss Thrupps, trees and the birds of Earlridge and the video shop.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thrupps is a cool Joburg place!

      Reply
      • Sasha/Sonya Sargeant Hitchner

        I can’t tell you how grand it wa to say, “Charge it to my account,” and having a trolley full of yum! Enjoy for me. Cape Town isn’t ugly, but my Spar has nothing kosher.

        Reply
  9. Mthobisi Magagula

    Interesting blog and I am sorry that things are sour there in Jo’burg , potholes, water and electricity shutdown that must be terrible. In Swaziland there are also areas with potholes, Msunduza & Khula etc.. Also have such issues but let’s hope the Municipalities will sort this issues out

    Great trees there by the way????????????

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thank you! Yes we can only hope.

      Reply

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