Mimosa Trees: Beautiful, Exotic, Aromatic -- and Threatening?
The mimosa tree, sometimes called the Persian silk tree, is a legume and can help enrich the soil where it grows. The Persian name means “night sleeper,” and in Japan it is known as the sleeping tree. That is because the bipinnate leaves fold up at night and during rainstorms.
Bipinnate simply means that instead of one undivided leaf, the leaves are separated like those of a fern or a palm frond. The flowers are anywhere from pale to deep pink and form in clusters that look like fine silk threads. They form long pods 5-7 inches long that enclose the seeds. The seeds are used in some places as feed for livestock.
The technical name, Albizia julibrissin, is native to eastern and southwestern Asia, but does well in most climates here in the states. It is a fast growing ornamental tree that can reach up to 30 feet or slightly more in height.
Clouds of Profuse Soft Pink Blossoms
Hummingbirds, butterflies, deer, birds and bees, all love mimosa trees. They smell wonderful, and they are my favorite trees in Texas, the first place I am aware of having seen them. I always look forward to their blossoms that usually appear in late spring and last for several weeks.
Several of the places where I have lived in Texas have had mimosa trees right near my front door. One evening about dusk, I was going out to run an errand, and I just happened to look up for some reason. There seemed to be a fairytale like cloud of pink cotton candy above me due to the folding of the mimosa tree’s leaves, making them invisible in the low light. The limited light made the feathery blossoms appear like soft fluff suspended in the air, and the smell was intoxicating.
That vision of the blossoms on the mimosa tree that I saw for the first time in my life that evening has remained with me. That was when I first learned that the leaves of the mimosa fold for the night. I often wish I could have gotten a photo, but it probably would not have turned out well in such low light anyway.
Some Advantages and Disadvantages Of the Mimosa Tree
The mimosa tree is cold weather tolerant and has been known to survive temperatures as cold as -25 degrees Fahrenheit. Nature Hills Nursery in Omaha Nebraska claims the mimosa tree “acts as a natural de-wormer for woodland creatures.”
From my own experience, in addition to being pretty and smelling wonderful, the mimosa trees that have been in my yard provided lots of great shade from the sun.
Unfortunately, the mimosa tree is considered by many horticulturalists, and others, to be an ecological threat. Mimosa trees can grow in a variety of soils, produce large seed crops that travel and spread easily by wind and water, and re-sprout when damaged.
The mimosa, I am told, is a strong competitor to native trees and shrubs in open areas or forest edges. Dense stands of mimosa severely reduce the sunlight and nutrients available for other plants. I must confess, that as prevalent as mimosa trees are here in North Texas, I have never seen a "dense stand" of them anywhere, nor have they ever gotten out of control that I know of. I have never heard anyone complain about them.
The seedpods are poisonous at all times and the seeds within even more so. Do not allow livestock, pets, or especially children to put the seedpods or seeds in their mouths. They can cause seizures and even death.
Be sure to keep the seed pods away from animals and children. Rake them up as soon as they begin to fall and teach your little ones and all of your children never to put the seedpods in their mouths. Do not assume an older child, or even an adult who may be unfamiliar with mimosa trees knows not to do so.
The flowers and leaves are not toxic and some people cook them and eat them like vegetable or make tea from them but avoid the seedpods and seeds (John Minton, Gardens of Tomorrow).
© 2012 C E Clark
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