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Best Purple Haze

Best Purple Haze

Best Purple Haze

Not a whole lot of romance can be found while driving the streets of Los Angeles, what with the stop-and-go, the two-story mini-malls, the anonymous stucco boxes. But if anything can shake us out of our bumper-to-bumper torpor, it’s the sight of a blooming jacaranda tree, whose lovely purple blossoms appear for a few weeks in late spring and then are missed the rest of the year.

What makes the jacaranda so captivating, anyway? Maybe it’s because L.A. doesn’t have much of a spring, as far as seasons go. Maybe it’s because the trees irritate the true jerks of the world, the ones who throw a fit the minute they see sticky blossoms stuck to the hood of their Beemers. Or maybe it’s because of the hard reality that L.A. simply isn’t a tree city.

Sure, the palms are nice, particularly in silhouette at dusk. But you have to be a bit of an explorer to find those residential neighborhoods — usually tony spots like Hancock Park, Windsor Square or Pasadena — that offer uninterrupted stretches of mature camphor or oak trees, whose branches reach out and form a near halo over the road. And so we are left with the jaunty jacarandas, which always stand out in a crowd.

Clutches of jacarandas are all over. If you won’t venture out of the San Fernando Valley, stop by Stansbury Avenue in Sherman Oaks, just south of Ventura Boulevard, to see some of the largest. If you’re tethered to the Westside, check out the trees that line the outdoor mall that is the Third Street Promenade, or pop over to the neighborhood of Mar Vista. My favorite jacarandas are the ones in the Crenshaw District. Best of all is Victoria Avenue, an especially wide street just west of Crenshaw Boulevard that offers jacarandas for five straight blocks.

Weeks before summer starts, the trumpetlike blooms can be seen on both sides of Victoria, forming a lovely arc over the neighborhood of modest ’20s and ’30s cottages. Once you see them, it’s almost too much. You may even feel the need to get out of your car.

Jacaranda trees of Victoria Avenue Start at ?King Blvd. and head north as far as Rodeo Rd.