June 22, 2024

The Culprit Damaging Your Car Isn’t Tree Sap, It’s Bug Droppings

Flowering of the jacaranda tree seen from the Triana Bridge on March 10, 2024, in Seville (Andalusia, Spain). The jacaranda is a typical tree in Seville whose flowering occurs twice a year, in autumn and spring.
Photo: Maria Jose Lopez/Europa Press (Getty Images)

Los Angeles and most of Southern California is currently covered in light purple flowers from the Jacaranda tree, and car enthusiasts are aware to avoid parking under these flowers, but I just found out that it’s not the tree’s fault. Jacaranda trees are not native to Southern California, they are actually native to Argentina and Brazil, but thrive in California’s Mediterranean climate.

Around the beginning of the 20th century, a San Diego nursery owner and plant enthusiast named Kate Sessions was widely recognized for introducing the Jacaranda to California, along with other now common plants like Birds of Paradise, Poinsettia, and Bougainvillea. These beautiful purple blossoms play a significant role in the plant life in SoCal, and enthusiasts of vehicles know that parking under a Jacaranda can lead to damage to your car’s paint. However, the reputation of Jacaranda trees causing harm to cars is not the tree’s fault, but can be attributed to aphid waste. The Los Angeles Times reported,

“Apologies for the unpleasant news, but that sticky substance isn’t nectar or sap. It’s aphid waste. According to [horticulturist David] Lofgren, jacarandas are a popular feeding spot for millions of hungry aphids. These insects extract many useless carbohydrates from the flower nectar to obtain enough protein, and excrete what they don’t need through a “tiny spigot in their gut,” Lofgren explained. This substance is known as “honeydew” by a public relations agent for the Aphid Protective League. Ants love honeydew and defend aphids from predators like ladybugs and parasitic wasps by acting as protective guards.”

If you happen to park your car under a Jacaranda tree when it’s blooming, there are methods to remove the sticky residue that will inevitably cover your car. LAist suggests that bug remover is effective in eliminating the stickiness once it has adhered to your car or even to your shoes or sidewalk. If you frequently have to park under a Jacaranda, it’s advisable to keep your car stocked with windshield wiper fluid containing bug remover to remove those annoying droplets from your windshield. So the next time you admire the beautiful lavender foliage forming a canopy overhead, you have an interesting and somewhat gross fact to share with your friends. Enjoy your summer, SoCal!


  • Q: Are Jacaranda trees harmful to cars?
    A: The sticky residue from aphid waste on Jacaranda trees can damage car paint if parked under them.
  • Q: Where are Jacaranda trees native to?
    A: Jacaranda trees are native to Argentina and Brazil.
  • Q: Who introduced Jacaranda trees to California?
    A: Kate Sessions, a San Diego nursery owner and plant enthusiast, is credited with introducing Jacaranda trees to California in the early 20th century.


The Jacaranda trees, with their beautiful purple flowers, add charm to the landscape of Southern California. While they may pose a risk to car paint due to aphid waste, understanding the biology behind this phenomenon can help car owners take necessary precautions. By knowing how to properly clean and protect vehicles from the sticky residue, everyone can continue to appreciate the stunning display of Jacaranda trees in bloom without worry.

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