mimosa

mimosa

[mi-moh-suh, -zuh]
mimosa, any tree, shrub, or herb of the genus Mimosa of the family Leguminosae (pulse family), chiefly tropical plants. They usually have feathery foliage and rounded clusters of fragrant pinkish flowers atop the branches. Mimosas are used for ornamental purposes in warm regions. The yellow-flowered plants sold as mimosa by florists are usually of the related genus Acacia (see acacia). Most widely known of the mimosas is the sensitive plant (M. pudica), considered a weed in the American tropics but cultivated as a greenhouse annual elsewhere because its leaves fold up and collapse under stimulus (e.g., touch, darkness, or drought) until the whole plant may assume temporarily a thoroughly wilted appearance. It is now naturalized in many warm regions and grows wild in the Gulf states. The name sensitive plant is also applied to other plants of this family that show similar movements. Mimosa is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.

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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Mimosa is a genus of about 400 species of herbs and shrubs, in the subfamily Mimosoideae of the legume family Fabaceae. There are two most curious plants in the genus. First the mimosa pudica because of the way it folds its leaves when touched or exposed to heat; many others also fold their leaves in the evening. It is native to southern Mexico, Uruguay and Central America but is widely cultivated elsewhere for its curiosity value, both as an indoor plant in temperate areas, and outdoors in the tropics. Outdoor cultivation has led to weedy invasion in some areas, notably Hawaii. Second, the mimosa hostilis which contains large levels of the powerful hallucinogen DMT in its roots.

Members of this genus are among the few plants capable of rapid movement; examples outside of Mimosa include the Telegraph plant, and the Venus Flytrap.

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).

Species

There are about 400 species including:

References

  • Barneby, R.C. 1992. Sensitivae Censitae: A description of the genus Mimosa Linnaeus (Mimosaceae) in the New World. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden, vol. 65.

External links

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