“Don’t even talk to me about these trees … I hate them!”
That was the greeting I received a few years ago while photographing jacaranda trees on Petaluma Avenue.
The woman, who refused to be identified, continued: “If you live on this street you hate ’em because all they do is track in mud and dirt and everything else.”
That’s when I realized the jacaranda trees aren’t just pretty. They create real angst for Long Beachers that have to live under the purple canopy.
There are certain annual rituals when you’re a photojournalist in Long Beach. Every April, it’s fast cars; in June, it’s graduations; and in May, it’s the jacaranda trees.
This year, I wanted a different view of the blooming trees, so I sent my drone high above the 3600 block of Petaluma Avenue in East Long Beach.
The jacaranda is a native to tropical and subtropical regions of Central America, South America, Cuba, Hispaniola and the Bahamas. The ones in Long Beach were planted when developers built homes in the middle of the last century.
The residents of Petaluma Avenue have a love-hate relationship with the trees.
Jarred Gienapp has lived under the trees his whole life. He says they’re messy, but they’re pretty when they’re blooming. About the purple blooms he said, “Fifty-fifty – they’re nice and they give you a headache at the same time.”
Steve and Pamela Colucci have lived under the purple trees for 12 years.
As the words, “What do you think about these trees” were coming out of my mouth, Steve emphatically said, “We hate ’em.” He said he had to buy a blower to keep the blooms under control.
His wife, Pamela, added: “They’re pretty to the visitors that drive down the street, but they’re really stinky.” And, “You can’t have carpet if you live on this street,” she said.
Steve Colucci laughed as he recalled what the street looked like when they bought their home: “It was beautiful. It was green. It was October.”
During their first spring in the home when the rain of purple blossoms started, Steve recalls thinking, “Are you kidding me?”