Any member of the more than 450 species that make up the genus Mimosa in the family Mimosaceae, native to tropical and subtropical areas throughout both hemispheres. Most are herbaceous plants or undershrubs; some are woody climbers; a few are small trees. They are often prickly. Mimosas are widely cultivated for the beauty of their foliage and for their interesting response to light and mechanical stimuli: the leaves of some species droop in response to darkness and close up their leaflets when touched. The name comes from this “mimicking” of animal sensibility. The roots of some species are poisonous; others contain skin irritants. Many acacias are commonly but incorrectly called mimosas. Seealso sensitive plant.
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The genus Mimosa has had a tortuous history, having gone through periods of splitting and lumping, ultimately accumulating over 3,000 names, many of which have either been synonymized under other species or transferred to other genera. In part due to these changing circumscriptions, the name "Mimosa" has also been applied to several other related species with similar pinnate or bipinnate leaves but now classified in other genera, most commonly to Albizia julibrissin (Silk Tree) and Acacia dealbata (Silver Wattle).
In Russia, Italy and other countries it is customary to present women with yellow mimosas (among other flowers) on International Women's Day (March 8). This flower is from Acacia dealbata (Silver Wattle), which is not a true Mimosa.
La Forêt de Mimosas is a song performed in French by Kirsty MacColl about a woman who is murdered by her lover in a Mimosa forest.
The plant can be found in many parts of Bengal, where it is known as lajjabati (literally a shy female).