MIMOSA PUDICA real plant
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Description of demure mimosa
The demure mimosa is a semi-woody plant belonging to the Fabaceae family. It is native to Central and South America, but has been introduced in many other regions where it is also considered invasive species, for example in Tanzania, Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands. It is actively fought in almost all of Australia.
It is generally a perennial plant, not frost-resistant, erect, very branched and with thorny branches. It is cultivated in the northern hemisphere as an annual pot plant, where it is unlikely to exceed 50 cm in height. In the wild, on the contrary, it can reach even the metre and a half.
The stems are erect in young plants but then become creepers with age. However, it can also grow on the ground and become creeping. The leaves are composite, bipinnate, with 10 to 26 leaflets per side. The flowers are axillary and come to life in mid-summer. The inflorescences are formed by 1 to 4 globes of pink to purple colour from 1 to 1,5 cm of diameter, carried on a peduncle from 12 to 25 mm of length.
Each one is composed by several flowers formed by a tiny calyx and by bell-shaped corollas and by 4 pink stamina and white anthers.
The fruit is a small flat pod composed of 3 or 4 segments long from 1 to 1.5 cm and with a margin with long radiant hairs. Each section contains only one smooth seed, oval or round, brown in colour.
Pollination takes place with the help of wind or insects. The peel of the seeds is very hard and it is therefore necessary, in order to favour the twinning, to scratch it slightly.
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Family and gender
Type of plant
Semi-woody perennial or annual
Bright, no direct light
Not very rustic
Abundant, high ambient humidity
Every 15 days
Pests and diseases
Red spider’s web
They are placed in a sunny or semi-shady place; they do not fear the frost, if of slight size and of short duration, in the places with rigid winters, it is cultivated in pot, in way to be able to keep it away from the cold during the cold months; often, on the contrary, it is cultivated as annual, seen the rapidity with which it develops and the fact that, with the passing of the years, it tends to debilitate. The exposure, both indoors and outdoors, should always be well-lit.
However, direct light must be avoided as it could damage the leaves causing bad sunburn. The ideal is to expose it to strong indirect light, perhaps filtered by a clear curtain, for at least 6 hours a day.
If the light is too weak, the leaves may close, as happens during the night.
From March to October we should water regularly, keeping the soil slightly moist, but avoiding excesses; during the cold months we should thin watering; if the plants are grown outdoors we can avoid watering them. During the growing season, provide fertilizer for flowering plants, every 15-20 days, mixed with the water of the watering. The mimosa pudica needs frequent watering. It is important to intervene every time the soil is dry in depth.
To ensure a good method is to insert a finger in the substrate and assessing whether it is really totally dry, especially in the area below 2.5 cm. Let’s irrigate abundantly, but without leaving stagnant water because it could damage the root system.
In winter, irrigation should be thinned out and little water should be given just to prevent the soil from becoming completely dry.
It is very important to always irrigate with lukewarm water. In fact, water that is too cold could cause the leaves to turn yellow and the plant to lose its beauty.
Of vital importance for the health and aesthetics of mimosa is to always maintain, especially when the plant lives in an apartment, a very high ambient humidity. This can be achieved by often vaporizing the leaves, using humidifiers to be applied to the radiators (or electric) and also leaving under the plant a saucer full of balls or clay foamed and filled with water. The important thing is that the liquid is not in contact with the roots.
An excellent environment can also be created by combining many different plants. This helps to increase the humidity in the room.
Modest mimosa has no particular needs in terms of soil. In any case, it prefers a light, but rich and, in any case, well drained, substratum. It is very important to create on the bottom of the pot a thick draining layer composed of gravel or expanded clay. Inert material of this type can also be mixed, in small quantities, with the substratum in such a way that it is well aerated. This will prevent stagnation and the danger of root asphyxiation.
This herbaceous plant, if grown in the right conditions, is often very vigorous and, even from seed, quickly occupies all the space that is allocated to it. In this way, it is possible that repotting is necessary up to two to three times a year.
We proceed without delay when we see that the container is no longer able to contain the plant or you can see the roots sprouting from the drainage holes or from the surface of the substrate. In any case, containers with a diameter of more than 12 centimetres are rarely used.
Sensitive plants prefer soft and loose soils, not too fertile, well drained; usually they tend to adapt also in poor or stony soils. Usually, a mixture is utilized formed by two parts of peat, two parts of universal mould and one part of sand for increasing the drainage.
The multiplication of the sensory is done by seed, in spring; the young plants are to be handled with caution, because the roots are quite delicate; they develop quite quickly and flower already from the first year. In summer it is possible to make semi-woody cuttings.
Pests and diseases
are afraid of radical rot; particularly harsh winters can cause the leaves to turn yellow, and even the entire plant to die. Modest mimosa can be affected by root rot caused by waterlogging. In winter, you can also see the yellowing of the leaves and drying out of the entire plant. This species, in fact, is very afraid of cold and frost. Also possible attacks by insect pests. The modest mimosa is more frequently affected by aphids and cochineals.
The latter are fought with specific insecticides. Fungal diseases are prevented by avoiding waterlogging. Damage from cold and frost, on the other hand, is avoided by moving the pot to a covered area or by mulching the substrate. For this operation, straw or dry leaves can be used to be placed at the foot of the plant until the following spring. Attacks by insect pests, on the other hand, can be avoided by administering pyrethrum-based products beforehand.
The only parasite that can bother you is the red spider web, which can be seen if there has been exaggerated exposure to light and heat. It can be combated by increasing humidity, moving the individual and, ultimately, with specific acaricides.
The modest mimosa is a unique plant of its kind. It differs from the others for the particular behaviour of the leaves, which, in fact, contract as soon as they are touched. This peculiarity has led to the plant being given many common names. These include: sensitive plant, humble plant, shy plant, dormant plant and do not touch me. The botanical name also comes from the behaviour of the plant.
Botanically speaking, in fact, the modest mimosa is called simply “sensitive”, English term that means “sensitive”. In our language, i.e. in Italian, modest mimosa is simply called sensitive or sensitive mimosa.
The modest or sensitive mimosa is not a plant that needs pruning. Usually we proceed to remove dry or damaged parts. The interventions are to be done after the flowering. The flowers of the modest mimosa develop indicatively from July to September. Pruning can therefore be carried out in October. During this period, the apical shoots can also be pruned to encourage the emission of lateral and basal branches.
There is no specific time for repotting modest mimosa. Usually, we proceed when the roots are no longer able to stay in the container. In the specimens which grow quickly, the repotting can be done also immediately after the purchase of the plant. All subsequent repottings must always take into account the growth of the roots. The new container should only be slightly larger than the previous one. The repotting substrate should consist of peat, perlite and a good amount of universal soil.
The mimosa pudica is a herbaceous and shrubby evergreen plant with a deciduous leaf. The plant’s habit and vegetative cycle depend on the area in which it is grown and the climate. Mimosa pudica, in fact, thrives in warm and temperate climates. In these conditions it behaves like a perennial and evergreen plant, in colder areas, as a deciduous species, i.e. with a deciduous leaf. The zones of origin of the mimosa pudica are Brazil and Oceania.
The plant belongs to the Fabaceae family, that is, to the legumes.
For some botanists, the modest mimosa would be the real mimosa plant, the one that should be given as a gift during Women’s Day. On this occasion, on the contrary, we use the mimosa with yellow flowers, which, after the experts, is not, rightly, the real Mimosa.
In nature there are different varieties of mimosa. These belong to the genus Acacia and are mainly native to Tasmania. Among the most famous are acacia baileyana, acacia dealbata, acacia retinoides, acacia cultriformis and acacia howittii Clair de lune. The first two are with composite leaves, while the other three are with whole leaves.
Modest mimosa embodies all the meanings of other mimosa varieties. This plant, in fact, indicates the passage from darkness to light, that is, from death to life. In particular, modest mimosa indicates modesty and shyness. This meaning depends on the particular behaviour of the plant. As already mentioned, the leaves, if touched, shrink and bend over each other, the petiole lowers and the movement is quickly transferred to all the leaves of the same branch.
Modest mimosa in the oriental tradition
In the East, modest mimosa is called Lajia. The plant is appreciated for its sensitivity and the beauty of its flowers. According to Ayurvedic tradition, the sensitivity of the plant can be transferred to the human being making it wiser and calmer. According to this “science”, those who touch the plant can develop a greater tactile sensitivity and refine their perceptions by simply touching things.
Because of its characteristics, modest mimosa is also counted among the plants that lead to happiness.
Modest mimosa contains calcium, mimosine and some adrenalin-like substances. According to Eastern culture, it is precisely these substances that enhance the tactile and sensory abilities of human beings. In Ayurvedic medicine, aphrodisiac properties are also attributed to the root of modest mimosa. The root has a sweet taste. Also according to the Orientals, its consumption helps to achieve inner harmony and restore emotional balance.
It is not recommended, however, to consume parts of the plant without the advice of a specialized doctor. In fact, many uses date back to ancient traditions and not always practicable.
The movement of modest mimosa
This plant is not generally cultivated for its beauty, but mostly for the curiosity it arouses in those who observe it. It behaves like a shy and scary person. If you touch it, or even just get close, the leaves crumple and let go hanging as if they were dead. The plant then takes on the appearance of a dried branch and then recover and return to normal. However, it has been observed that this movement occurs more quickly when the temperature is around 25°C during the day.
This suggests that it is a defence mechanism against herbivorous animals, which usually go around in search of food during the afternoon. Another hypothesis, however, links the movement to the desire to bring down phytophagous insects without wings. However, let’s go deeper into this movement from a scientific point of view. Like a number of other plants (some oxalis or desmodium gyrans), in various circumstances there is a movement called “tigmonastia”.
The leaves have the particularity of folding on themselves at the slightest shock suffered (wind, rain, touch). It is due to small swellings at the base. They are composed of specialized drive cells and are full of water. At the slightest touch, this water moves into the nearby tissues. The reaction in the leaflets begins within a second after contact and takes place in two stages depending on the intensity of the contact.
At the beginning, the touched leaves bend and disappear from sight, in all, in about 3-4 seconds. A stronger touch induces the fold also in the nearby leaves. If the touch is very strong, the event is transmitted to all the leaves on that side of the plant. Then the leaves on the other side are folded as well. Ultimately, it has been concluded that there are two distinct transmissions: the first propagates at a speed of 2 meters per minute.
In a second time the folding reaches also all the other leaves, but at a speed 4 times slower. The transmission line passes in the order of the leaves, the leaves and then the whole plant. However, this movement is not only a consequence of a movement, but also in periods of long aridity or darkness, for example.
It is an absolutely non-rustic plant and in Italy it can only be cultivated and maintained for several years if grown in an apartment, especially during the winter months. From October to April it is good to keep it inside with temperatures that never fall below 15 degrees. Below this limit, in fact, the plant could be severely damaged. The first sign of suffering is evident in the leaves that tend to turn yellow.
From the month of May, however, we can start to keep it outside, especially if we live in the central-southern regions of the peninsula. However, it can also be safely considered an annual plant, letting it die in autumn and then reseeding it with the arrival of the summer.
In order for the plant to grow vigorously and bloom well, it is important to administer, during the vegetative period, every ten to fifteen days, a fertilizer for flowering plants, possibly with a high content of phosphorus and potassium and with little nitrogen. This is because, being the mimosa a fabacea, it usually needs very little nitrogen as it is already able to fix in the soil the present one of the air.
Excellent fertilizers are those for tomatoes. However, we can always choose whether to administer a liquid product or rely on a granular slow release, which usually performs its function for about three months.
Sensitive – Mimosa pudica: Propagation
Multiplication can be by cutting or by seed.
The first one takes place in late summer or early autumn. The stem segments are about 10 cm long. The leaves at the base must be removed and the cut immersed in a powder or liquid root product. They fit into a mixture of sand and peat, or agri-perlite, moistened. The ideal container has a diameter of about 8 cm covered with perforated transparent plastic. It must be kept at about 21°C and in mid-shade. Rooting takes about 4 weeks.
At that moment you can remove the bag and expose the plant to a stronger light. In spring you can proceed with repotting. Sowing is also very easy. We proceed with the beginning of the summer season. Place two or three seeds, previously scarified, in the same 8 cm pot with a compound for sowing. Expose the containers to intense light and water slightly. Germination takes about 2 to 3 weeks.
We will eliminate the plants too weak and when the others have reached 4 cm in height can be moved to a larger pot with normal substrate culture. Proceed with some trimming.