Long before weather satellites, GPS gadgets and sonar, savvy fishermen in Ozona watched a certain jacaranda tree in the springtime. “They waited for this tree to bloom,” said former North Pinellas Historical Museum director Winona Jones, who talked to the anglers. “That told them when it was time to go get the kingfish.” Today, the tree, at Belcher and Curlew roads in Palm Harbor, still draws its share of attention. When we asked readers to name their favorite jacaranda trees of North Pinellas, that’s the one you mentioned most. So maybe a little history is in order. It was planted by Lucy Hartley, the oldest daughter of the family that built the Hartley house, which became the historical museum.
Lucy paid a quarter for the tree at a yard sale held by Curlew Methodist Church, Jones said. She planted it more than 80 years ago.
In Pinellas, the golden age of the jacaranda, a native of Argentina, lasted through the 1950s and '60s, said Bruce Turley, owner of Wilcox Nursery in Largo.
Today Turley still sells them - $21.95 for a tree in a 3-gallon bucket - but would he have one himself?
"Gosh no, not on your life," he said. "They are trashy trees, quite frankly, that only look good a couple weeks of the year.
"The problem is that if they become real large trees, and they are big for many residential properties, those types of exotics don't tend to have the durability to wind damage."
The fragrant, showy flower of the jacaranda blooms any time from April though August, most often in May after a couple of wintery, 30-degree nights. And Pinellas is the farthest north that the purple, trumpet-shaped flower blooms.
It's well-adapted to the weather here, said Andy Wilson, horticulturist at the Pinellas County Extension Service in Largo.
- W Skyline Drive and Sunset Point Road, Clearwater. Nominated by several readers.
- 1342 Rosery Road NE, Largo. Nominated by Marie F. Hoke-Singer, Largo. "A source of irritation in my family since we moved back to Largo in 1972. I love the tree. ... Being an Elvis fan, whenever the blossoms drop on the roof and hood of my car(s), it always takes me back to ... Blue Hawaii with the boat going down the waterway in the wedding scenes with all the flowers. That romantic image is not how my darling husband of 49 years sees the driveway 'littered' with those awful flowers that will probably take the paint off his Buick."
- Philippe Park, near the information center, Safety Harbor. Nominated by Catherine Howard, Safety Harbor. "The best time to go is at dusk, just before the park is cast into shadow. The waning light drifts through the flower-laden branches until it finds the purple carpet at our feet and the air around us becomes charged with color. We revel in our purple bubble until the light passes and the air returns to its normal hue."
- Northwest corner of Belcher and Curlew roads, Palm Harbor. Nominated by Kathy Hawthorne, Palm Harbor. "In 2001 as my father lay dying ... the beautiful blossoms of that jacaranda brightened my day - every day! Now when I pass and see the tree in bloom I smile and remember how special were those last days with my dad."
- 810 Jacaranda Drive, Largo. Nominated by Lisa Fontaine, Largo. A friend named Carl Flick "said his mom chose that tree in 1966 because the house was on Jacaranda Drive and back then there was hardly any tree cover at that portion of the street. ... The day before he planted the tree he went fishing in the gulf and happened to catch three yellowtails. So when they dug the hole to plant the tree he thought, 'I wonder if these fish would make good fertilizer.' So, he decided to put the fish in the hole first and planted the tree. I guess it worked."
- Mease Manor, 700 Mease Plaza, Dunedin
- North side of Court Street, just east of Hillcrest Street, Clearwater. What's interesting about this tree is it's covered with Spanish moss.
IF YOU GO
What: Richard Wagner's classic work tells the story of giants, dwarves, gods and water nymphs, and their struggle over love, greed and revenge. The opera will be sung in English.
When: 8 p.m. today and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center in City Hall, 324 E Pine.
Tickets: $16, $14 for center members and students. Call (727) 942-5605.