The Touch-Sensitive Plants Known as Mimosa Pudica or Touch-Me-Not
Also Popularly Known as Tickle Me Plants
The touch sensitive plants known as mimosa pudica have small beautiful pink flowers. The leaves of this very small plant fold up on a gentle touch and remain like that for few minutes. If you touch the plant stems, the plant itself will look like it has slept, because it will fold all the leaves and even bend and collapse a little. The leaves also remain folded after sunset and they actually look like they are sleeping at night.
Mimosa Pudica plants are actually sensitive to physical parameters like touch, temperature and light which means the plants fold and shrink their leaves and even look like they are dead when someone touches them or when there is a sudden variation in temperature or light. This also explains why the leaves of the plants fold upon after sunset. However, it appears that they react more to a touch compared to a variation in temperature or light.
The touch me not plants used to grow like weeds around my home garden once, and we didn't care because we loved the small beautiful flowers. When I was a child, I was actually very fond of this plant, mainly because I was very curious to see them folding the leaves when I touch. Many times I have felt that the moment I bring my hand near to a leaf, it would start shrinking even before I touch it. Sometimes, even the near by leaves too shrink by themselves.
The other popular names of these plants are 'tickle me', sensitive plant', 'sleeping plant', 'shy plant', 'humble plant', 'chuimui', 'ant plant' etc.
The name touch me not is also used for another species, but here we are discussing about the species Mimosa Pudica.
Why you should grow mimosa pudica plants in your garden?
Growing the mimosa pudica plants in your garden has both positive and negative outcomes. These plants propagate quite fast, so you need to control the propagation. If not, they may affect the growth of certain plants and crops nearby.
The small plants that grow near the ground will have thorns in them. So if you are walking in your garden without slippers, you may hurt your feet. It is not something to worry about, as the cut will be really small. Actually I have cut my feet many times in this way when I was small.
If you are growing them indoors or inside pots in your garden, you don't have to worry about the propagation of the plants and also their thorns.
You might wonder why you have to grow this plant in your garden, if they grow like weeds and become quite invasive causing problem to other plants.
So here is why you should grow them in your garden.
The reason for growing mimosa pudica plants is that once they start flowering, you have a container full of beautiful and soft pink flowers and they can look great in even very small gardens.
Also, if you have kids I am sure they would enjoy the 'touch me not' characteristic of this plant, which would add to their childhood curiosity and fun. Most people actually grow them not just for their flowers, but also out of curiosity. Just make sure you grow them in containers!
You can see the close up photos of the mimosa pudica flowers and leaves here.
If you want to buy the seeds, you can get them from Amazon
Do they have medicinal uses?
The plants are said to have some medicinal uses despite the fact that they have some toxicity and so they are not edible for consumption. The leaves, flowers and roots have medicinal uses, especially for treatments related to skin and inflammations. The home treatments for inflammations and several skin problems include the grinding of leaves, flowers and the roots to a paste and applying it on the affected area. The plant is also said to be effective against cobra venom and also the headaches from migraines.
However, these traditional treatments are not scientifically proved and so if you want to try it out, there should be proper guidance and understanding. I have heard a lot about the medicinal use of this plant while I was growing up, but frankly, I have no experience using them even once.
The medicinal uses of mimosa pudica may be a subject with scopes for more studies.
Growing the mimosa pudica plants
Mimosa pudica plants are rather easy to grow as they don't require much care.
The plants are grown from seeds, which can be sown to a container of medium size. You can use a knife to gently nick the seeds to make the germination process more faster. Just make sure that you nick the seeds gently without damaging them. Alternatively, you can also soak the seeds in water for about 24 hours.
The soil in the pot should be well drained and watered, but it should not become soggy. Water the plants regularly once the seeds germinate, just make sure watering does not make the soil soggy.
Place the pots where they can get good exposure to sun, but if they are kept indoors you can use artificial light or just use the window light.
The ideal temperature suitabl for the growth of these plants is 70 to 85 degree Fahrenheit, but they can manage on slightly colder conditions too. You can move the plants indoors during wintertime and also if the outdoor temperatures become too cold or hot.
Mimosa pudica plants are shrubs that usually reach about 30 to 40 cm in height, but some bigger plants can also reach up to 60cm. They are perennials.
The Science Behind
It is believed that the physical reactions the plants show in response to the external factors is actually an attempt to protect themselves from outside dangers. The many experiments done on the mimosa pudica plants have actually led to the conclusion that they have a signalling system within their body which helps them to respond to the external triggers.
And the most amazing finding is that the plant develops learnt behaviours on continuous application of external triggers. In one experiment, scientists sprinkled water over the mimosa pudica plants for several times. The plants responded for the first few times by folding the leaves and shrinking, but they stopped doing so after the experiment was repeated for few more times. This led to the conclusion that the plant develops learnt behaviours. The interesting thing is that the plants which underwent the experiment didn't respond to the sprinkling of water, even when the test was repeated after a gap of one month.
In short words, it is found that if the plants learn that the external trigger is not dangerous to them in anyway, they stop responding to the particular trigger.
Maybe they have a really great signalling system which gives good memory and intelligence to the plants!