This past week, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras trees (Arbor carnivalense) suddenly burst into full bloom, becoming
festooned with bright colors that sparkle in the sunlight.
This species seems to occur predominately along parade routes (or, do we route our parades along streets
lined with this species?), but the blooms and fruits make their way down side streets, and people adorn
themselves with them as well.
Some blooms/fruit are caught on fences and gates around houses, and some seem to wrap around signs
or telephone posts. Observation suggests that many may be distributed by humans when they land around
their necks. Many are removed in bags and boxes.
Are the bright colors of the blooms/fruit a superb enticement for humans to gather them and distribute them?
Every New Orleanian knows that the proper destination of such blooms/fruit, at least in the short term, is
storage in their attics until removed the following year for sharing and redistribution. An increasing number
of people make sure they are given to organizations such as ARC of New Orleans and St. Michael Special School
where they are lovingly repackaged and made available for another year.
Trees along the parade paths gradually have more and more blooms and fruits (beads). Following the
Tucks Parade many of the trees are covered with long white streamers that are very light and dance
in the breeze. Are these similar to dandelion seeds whose design allows for wind dispersal? If the
beads are the blooms or fruit, are these streamers resembling toilet paper the seeds being distributed
for next years’ events?
And what about those glittered shoes that appear after Muses? If the blooms and fruit fall to the
ground, do shoes they contact magically become sparkled with an array of glitter colors?
So many unanswered questions! You are urged to “think like a naturalist” and help us understand this
LAGNIAPPE: Have you noticed strange tracks along parade routes? Long overlapping “stripes” on the
roadways are made by rolling medal rimmed wooden spoked wheels from traditional parades such
as Rex. Odd golden semicircles are left on roadways when riding lieutenants of Krewe d’Etat
spray paint their horses' hooves. What else have you noticed?
Note the weird phenomenon of trees along Mardi Gras parade routes suddenly blooming. All photos by Bob Thomas