Brazilian Fern Tree or Yellow Jacaranda
One of our most dramatic growing trees at Wharepuke is the Brazilian Fern Tree named because the huge Jacaranda-like leaves which resemble Tree Fern leaves. It is a native from Brazil to southern Mexico where it is called Bacarubu or Guapuruvu. Scientifically it is called Schizolobium parahybum and belongs to the Legume family.
In the wild this tree is one of the first to grow away when a mature tree falls in the forest so it is a fast grower which tends not to branch for the first few years. This allows it to take control of the light available. As it is legume it fixes nitrogen in the soil which helps it to grow strongly.
Leaves are up to two metres long and interestingly tend to be a little sticky, for why I don’t know. The tree is deciduous for about six weeks from late winter then the new leaves start unfurling giving a Dr Zeus feeling to the end of the branches.
The yellow flowers are born on spikes which stand above the foliage though some pictures I have seen show the flowers appearing before the leaves so there seems to be some variability in the species. The showy flowers are a good source of nectar and are supposed to be scented.
With time buttress roots form at ground level. The whitish-yellow wood is light and is used for paper manufacture, joinery etc.
I find that a free draining soil is best; a tree on my heavier soil doesn’t do anywhere near so well. It will stand light frosts. Some references say the tree is brittle but I haven’t found it particularly so. Vigorous new growths in the spring can get blown off in a storm though.
Some people may not want a tall tree but want to enjoy the huge leaves. This is easily done by cutting the tree to ground level when it gets to the maximum height you want. It then grows away very quickly giving you that lovely effect with its new leaves.
A very sculptural tree for the garden, it does give high, light shade and other plants are happy growing under it. A tree I would recommend if you have the space.