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LA Jacaranda Map


If you live in the San Fernando Valley, you probably see a lot of myrtles. If you’re in Westwood, there’s magnolias. Leimert Park? Mexican fan palms.

“It’s a different L.A. depending on where you are and what’s planted on your street,” says Matt Stiles, a data and graphics editor for CNN.

For Stiles, the L.A. he sees is full of jacarandas — because he’s made a hobby of it.

This year, Stiles created and released an interactive map of where to find jacaranda trees in L.A. County. Jacarandas are one of the unique trees that make L.A. a masterpiece, he said.

“They’re one of the little insider things…We’re all spread out, but we know and experience them collectively,” Stiles said.

But, surprisingly, Stiles has never really been a big fan of purple. He said he mostly enjoys the jacarandas as a sign of the changing season, like the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. What draws the Westside resident to mapping out the whereabouts of one of L.A.’s signature trees is his love for the city.

“I’m a little bit obsessed with street trees in L.A. because there’s just so much diversity of trees, and because your perception of L.A. and what it looks like really comes [from] inside your car for a lot of people,” Stiles said.

A zoomed-out version of a map of L.A. county in greyscale with purple dots denoting jacaranda trees.

The jacaranda trees map covers most of L.A. county, marking the trees with purple dots.

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jacarandamap.com

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Matt Stiles

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Stiles spent a few years collecting data from tree inventories from various cities, which document new trees that come in and trees that are removed. If you look at the map, it is dotted with purples. The empty pockets are the cities where Stiles had trouble accessing their records.

In late May, Stiles said he decided to spend a couple of days compiling all of this data into the map in time for the jacaranda trees to bloom in June.

“It’s just something I was doing in my free time,” Stiles said. “I would love to do, over the next months, a full scrub of the data, and to really try to update it, so that next year it’s even more current.”

Stiles said he chose jacarandas above all the other city trees to have its own map because of the passion Angelenos have for them. Native to Brazil, the jacaranda was brought to Southern California in the late 19th century and popularized by horticulturalist Kate Sessions. According to the Los Angeles Public Library, lots of jacaranda trees were planted in the 1950s and 60s as part of a city-wide beautification effort.

With the map, users can search by an address or zoom in on a neighborhood to find jacaranda clusters to visit.

Jacarandas have become a topic of conversation for Stiles and his family every time they’re in the car now.

“That’s been kind of fun to watch my children interact with something I’ve built for the first time,” Stiles said.

Like when you buy a certain car model and start to see it everywhere, Stiles said he’s noticing the jacarandas more this year, after all the time and effort he invested in the map.

“It’s a very L.A. experience to see the purple blooms in June, right?” said Stiles.

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