When Los Angeles' purple reign turns to a purple rain, some see red -- and others feel blue.
That's the jacaranda season for you.
The flowering jack is back, and its lavender canopy is casting brilliant splashes of color over neighborhoods throughout Southern California.
With its almost fluorescent blossoms set against delicate, fern-like foliage, the jacaranda tree is an annual signal that spring is ending and summer is on its way. Especially when the blooms drop from its wispy branches to create a vibrant, violet "snowfall."
The blossom drop is also the signal to move your car into the garage.
That's what Mar Vista resident Kay Gabriel is doing this week as a cascade of purple from 58-year-old jacaranda trees that line Colbert Avenue flutters onto her driveway.
"As the saying goes, it's the type of tree you want your neighbor to have," Gabriel laughed. "They're pretty, but sticky. If they get on your car it's like getting married all over again when you drive off."
Gabriel's three jacaranda trees bloom about three weeks a year. "We're about a third of the way through it," she said.
Neighbor Mike Kahanmalek is sad to see the blossoms fall for a different reason. He loves the trees' leafy lavender look when the flowers are still attached.
"They're gorgeous. I enjoy them so much that I put three trees in front of my house in 1992. They're beautiful trees and they provide nice shade. People come by and take pictures when the trees are in bloom."
Some say jacaranda blossoms can stain cars if they fall on vehicles damp from dew. Others worry that the fallen blooms can make a wet sidewalk extra slippery.
"You could definitely lose your footing," said mail carrier Betty Johnson as she walked through a dusting of petals along Mar Vista's Barry Avenue.
"They look pretty, but, no, I wouldn't want them in my front yard."
A few steps away, gardener Jose Hernandez was hosing jacaranda blossoms off a client's sidewalk and driveway and onto the lawn. His mower would pick them up along with the grass cuttings, he said.
"They're nice to look at when they're on the tree. But no, I don't like it when they fall," Hernandez said.
Blooms not swept up simply shrivel and disappear -- either into the wind, or into nearby lawns and planters as mulch.
Jacarandas have become popular as street trees -- although Garden Grove officials last year put restrictions on planting them near a planned senior citizens housing development "because the blossoms are slippery for the elderly," one planner said.
More than two dozen jacarandas were ordered chopped down five years ago in Yorba Linda after residents complained that the sticky flowers littered patios and clogged spa filters. Experts say the stickiness comes from aphid waste in the bloom -- not from nectar or sap.
But the uprooting of 11 jacaranda street trees a dozen years ago caused a furor in Costa Mesa when it was learned that the Orange County Department of Education, which owned them, had sold them to the city of Los Angeles to be transplanted at the newly refurbished downtown Central Library.
This week, neighborhoods all over Los Angeles are ablaze with jacarandas. In some places, however, the purple haze has yet to explode into view.
Young trees are gently showering the Larchmont Boulevard median divider between 1st and 3rd Streets. Farther west, vivid violet colors can be seen on trees throughout Park La Brea near Fairfax Avenue. The trees also grace Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade and downtown Los Angeles areas such as the MTA's transit plaza.
Well-established neighborhood jacarandas are on North Whittier Drive in Beverly Hills, Index Street in Granada Hills, Los Robles Avenue in San Marino and Stansbury Avenue in Sherman Oaks.
Neighborhood improvement groups have picked the jacaranda for beautification projects in such places as the West Adams District. Government agencies have planted it at locations such as the Veterans Affairs complex in Brentwood and the Aliso Village housing project in Boyle Heights.
City officials like the trees not just because of their once-a-year bloom. For most the year, the trees are green, and the roots tend not to buckle sidewalks -- a major problem with other street trees such as the ficus.
The jacaranda can bloom from May to July. Some experts suggest that this year's near-record rainfall delayed the appearance of some trees' two-inch, tubular flowers.
The trees are native to Brazil. Experts at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia estimate that the jacaranda arrived in Southern California in the mid-1800s, when travelers from southern Brazil brought seeds here.
Although Los Angeles has embraced the jacaranda, other places have not.
Pretoria, South Africa has been known as the Jacaranda City because of its flowering trees.
But recently authorities labeled the jacaranda a weed that sucks up scarce groundwater.
They have banned the planting of new jacarandas and warned that those who do not remove jacarandas when requested can be fined as much as $900.
To jack lovers, that's a blooming insult.