Our favourite Brazilian immigrant and a purple rain of petals across Sutherland Shire and St George

Is there a more beautiful time in St George and Sutherland Shire than jacaranda season?

This time of year when the purple rain of petals bloom and shed onto our streets creating memorable mauve moments all over our region.

Streets are awash with the magnificent purple-blue blooms of jacarandas.They adorn backyards and public parks and their fallen flowers form a colourful carpet below.

Along with the spectacular flowering of bougainvilleas at this time of the year the pops of colour look like confetti on the urban landscape.

For high school students, the glorious jacaranda displays herald the arrival of the HSC, for punters the coming Melbourne Cup andfor and for the rest of us they are a reminder that summer and Christmas are just around the corner.

In an article for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2018, journalist Helen Pitt tried to track down the origins of Sydney's favourite Brazilian immigrant.

"I was besieged by letters and phone calls from readers, most of them aged in their 80s and 90s keen to deliver clues about how this lavender-limbed import became so popular throughout our suburbs," Ms Pitt wrote.

"Many pointed me in the direction of Sister Irene Haxton and the Jacaranda Maternity Hospital she ran in English Street In Woolooware in the Sutherland Shire.

"Elizabeth MacDessi told me: 'In 1951 my mother gave birth to my sister there and returned home with a seedling. As far as I know the jacaranda tree has survived demolition of our family home and rebuilding as new owners were made aware of its historic importance'."

"One reader even wrote from Brazil, telling me he was born in Jacaranda Private Hospital in Woolooware in 1952.

"He said: 'Nurse Irene Haxton would give the parents of newborn babies a jacaranda seedling to plant in the Sutherland Shire. Ironically, I am now married to a Brazilian lady and live in Brazil where jacarandas are native'."

Como's legendary butcher, Ted Carey, 86, who remembers meeting Sister Haxton.

"Sheer vandalism": Irene Haxton inspects one of the threatened jacarandas in Cremona Road near the Como Hotel in 1991. Picture: Colin Townsend

"Sheer vandalism": Irene Haxton inspects one of the threatened jacarandas in Cremona Road near the Como Hotel in 1991. Picture: Colin Townsend

" only met her once, when she was in her 90s, and that particular night everyone in the local council chambers gave her a standing ovation for what she did," Mr Cary told the Herald.

"At one point the Sutherland Shire had wanted to upgrade the roads and replace the jacarandas with Chinese tallow trees, so locals stormed the council meeting, then presided over by council president and local car salesman Michael Tynan.

"Sister Haxton, got up and said she was matron at the hospital and 'for every baby born in my hospital I gave the parents a jacaranda seeding. She said 'I can stand on the top of Miranda Fair and see them in bloom and name every child born with each tree. Everyone represents a baby to me. And, Mr Tynan, I brought you into this world and I gave your mother a seedling and every time I drive past that tree I am very proud of your achievements .. to date'."

Mr Tynan, who served on Sutherland Shire Council for 18 years from 1974 and was president in 1975-78 and 1988-89, was convinced by the midwife who delivered him. The jacarandas remained.

Ms Pitt reported receiving a call from Gwen Hood, now in her 80s and living in Foster, who spent 18 years of her married life in the Shire recalling all her friends who had their babies at the Jacaranda Private Hospital.

"One of my favourite memories of the shire is standing on top of Miranda Fair and seeing a blaze of purple jacarandas from the car park in October and November - I've always liked the look of them," Mrs Hood said.

Ms Pitt also got a call from 93-year-old Estelle Powell, of Caringbah, who remembers being given a jacaranda seedling by a Sister Mullins, when she gave birth to her second daughter Lesley at the Jacaranda Private Hospital.

"We were just back from England and I couldn't get back in the whiz bang new Sutherland Hospital and I do remember coming home with a baby and a jacaranda seedling in a jam jar," Mrs Powell said.

A neighbour of the Haxtons, Warren Callender, recalls as a five-year-old in 1948 going up the Great Western Highway to Penrith with Irene to collect the seedlings and plant them in jam jars gathered from neighbours in the shire.

While Sydney's first jacaranda was planted in the Royal Botanic Garden in the late 1850s or early 1860s, it seems some councils gave away seedlings as part of beautification schemes, causing a love affair with the tree that continues to this day.

Jacaranda hot spots

In Hogben Park and Frys Reserve, Kogarah, jacarandas are an annual delight.

They are thought to be remnants of a residential property (circa 1930-40s) to which the council added more over the years to maintain the avenue as a feature of the park.

There is also an impressive stand on Slade Avenue at Bardwell Park and along Cremona Road at Como.

Do you have a wonderful jacaranda in your backyard or on your street that youd like to share?

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