Flame tree joins jacaranda companion in Quadrangle

21 July 2017

The University’s much-loved jacaranda graced the southern end of the Quadrangle for 88 years before dying in 2016. The planting of a native flame tree and a clone of the original jacaranda was celebrated in a special ceremony today.  

Artist’s impression of the jacaranda tree and flame tree in bloom. Credit: The University of Sydney.

Artist’s impression of the jacaranda tree and flame tree in bloom. Credit: The University of Sydney.

The planting of a native flame tree and a clone of the University of Sydney’s much-loved jacaranda was celebrated in a special ceremony today.  

“In planting the jacaranda we return a historical icon to the Quadrangle and recognise the role it has played in the University’s past,” said Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence

With the flame tree we acknowledge that the University is built on the lands of Australia’s first peoples who have been teaching and learning in this country for tens of thousands of years.
Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor and Principal

The two 4.5-metre trees were planted opposite each other at the southern end of the Quadrangle the previous night. They are often used as companion plants as both are deciduous and flower in late spring.

Flame tree joins jacaranda companion in Quadrangle

A dance performance by the Sydney-based youth dance company, the Jannawi Dance Clan was followed by a welcome to country by Uncle Allen Madden, Cadigal Elder and Member of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, (Indigenous Strategy and Services) said, “A native tree in the Quadrangle is a symbol of the lasting impact of the Gadigal people who have held stewardship of these grounds for centuries. It marks our commitment to closing the education gap and to continuing research which improves the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” 

The ceremony was attended by more than 150 guests including:

  • the former NSW governor Professor Marie Bashir, 
  • Robert Stokes MP, NSW Minister for Education, 
  • NSW local member Jenny Leong and 
  • representatives from the consulates of China, Indonesia and the Netherlands. 

Also present were descendants of Eben Waterhouse, the Professor of German and Comparative Literature who planted the original jacaranda in 1928.

The Chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson, said that the ceremony represented a significant moment in the history of the University.

“These two trees from different continents symbolise our commitment to the international tradition of high quality university teaching and research, and serve as a reminder of the centuries of knowledge-sharing by the traditional owners of the land,” she said.  “They represent the importance of our shared past, and the tremendous potential of our future.”

The ceremony concluded with a performance of Paul Kelly’s From Little Things Big Things Grow, by students from the Conservatorium of Music in a special arrangement by Dr Clint Bracknell.

Dr Bracknell lectures in ethnomusicology and contemporary music and is the Conservatorium’s coordinator of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander curriculum. 

The jacaranda (Jacaranda Mimosifolia) is a native of South America and its name, meaning ‘fragrant’ is believed to have originated from the Indigenous Guarani language. Cuttings were taken from the original jacaranda in 2014 and grafted onto a genetically related tree.  

The Illawarra Flame tree (Brachychiton Acerifolius) is native to subtropical regions on the east coast of Australia. The tree had practical uses to Indigenous Australians as its yellow seeds can be toasted and eaten, and the soft spongy wood and inner bark were used to make nets and fishing lines, while the timber was used in artifacts.


Alumni who wish to be kept informed about the progress of the new trees are encouraged to update their contact details with us.

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Facts & figures

Fast facts

  • The University has approximately 28 hectares of open space on main campus with over 2,000 trees.
  • Both trees bloom in late spring for up to two months and can live for up to 120 years.
  • University folklore decreed that any student wishing to succeed in their end-of-year exams should begin studying when the jacaranda first bloomed.

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