Nakuru Town is one of the urban centres in Kenya that has jacaranda trees beautifying the streets. The jacaranda trees have become part of the townscape and the residents have become very protective of the trees. In 2007, there was a row between the Nakuru Municipal Council and the China Road and Bridge Company when they cut down 2000 jacaranda trees. This was during the expansion of the road entering Nakuru from Lanet which was being built into a dual carriageway to ease congestion.
Recently, residents were up in arms when the owners of Golden Mall in Industrial Area Nakuru tried to bring down several jacaranda trees to make an entrance into the mall. But when were these jacarandas planted and who planted them?
While the jacarandas along Nakuru’s Section 58 towards Lanet were planted in the 1970s by the council, the trees in Milimani and Statehouse had been there since the colonial times. Several decades later, the trees give Nakuru a unique identity.
The trees along the highway were an idea given by President Jomo Kenyatta while he passed through Nakuru at one point. The residents and the council enthusiastically took on the task led by among others former Nakuru Mayor Dr. Isaack Kirubi. Among the trees felled during the road works was a commemorative tree planted by Mama Ngina Kenyatta.
Frank Walter James (Jacaranda Jim)
Had it not been for this gentleman, Frank Walter Jameson, the beautiful jacaranda trees we see in Nakuru and other colonial time towns in Kenya would not exist.
Born in Durban, SA, in 1873, his fascination and love for the jacaranda tree was so high that he was nicknamed “Jacaranda Jim.”
Jacaranda Jim was appointed Nairobi’s Town Planning Consultant in 1926. With his great weakness for planting jacaranda trees, he would plant the purple tree wherever no other idea came to mind. As one author has put it, “jacarandas are an exotic blessing that was left behind by the British at the end of their colonial rule.”
After Nairobi, the idea of using Jacaranda for urban beatification spread to Nakuru, Nanyuki, Nyeri, Kiambu, Limuru among other old urban centres in Kenya.
However, it was Pretoria South Africa where he oversaw the planting of the largest number of Jacaranda trees estimated at 70,000. The sight when the trees blossom in summer draws in thousands of tourists who visit to behold the “Jacaranda City.” In Pretoria, there even exists the rarely found white-flowered jacarandas.
Next time you’re walking around Nakuru while the Jacarandas are in bloom, say a thank you prayer to Jacaranda Jim who passed on in 1956.