Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Magical Beauty Of Mimosa Tree

By Kent Higgins

July with its hot dry days usually puts the brakes on the any landscape gardeners enthusiasm. The brilliant colors of spring have faded and now greens and browns have taken their places.

Trees or shrubs which bloom in midsummer are most welcome connecting links between springs gorgeous flowers and the brilliant show of autumn colors. Two such trees are the Japanese pagoda, Sophora japonica, and silk tree or mimosa, Albizzia julibrissin.

Japanese Pagoda Tree

The Japanese pagoda tree is comparatively rare in the heart of the Midwest, but it surely deserves wider use as a lawn specimen. The tree, introduced from China in 1747, belongs to the legume family and bears the characteristic pea-shaped flowers of that group. The creamy-white blossoms are borne in clusters six to 12 inches long at the tops of the leafy branches.

The fruits are pods which hang in the autumn as bead-like strings, since the seeds are separated by constrictions of the pods. The oldest trees are about 40 feet high. Young trees have a tendency to form low-forked trunks. The leaves remain on the tree until late in the fall, and in winter the green-colored young branches are attractive. The Japanese pagoda tree is fairly hardy and free from insects and diseases. Early spring foliage is sometimes injured by late freezes. Anyone planting this tree must wait patiently for it to flower, since usually about 15 years are required.

The Mimosa

The mimosa or silk tree, a favorite in Southern gardens, has gradually extended its range and is now quite common in the America's heartland. Here the tree is usually low-headed or multiple stemmed and reaches a height of from 15 to 30 feet.

The species is a native of Persia to central China and its Oriental character is accentuated by its interesting flat-topped head and spreading foliage of extreme grace and delicacy. Each leaf has from ten to 25 pinnae which bear 10 to 60 leaflets. The soft green leaflets are about half an inch in length, sickle shaped and one sided. As with some other plants of the legume family, the foliage exhibits the peculiar sensitivity which causes the leaflets to fold together in pairs at night.

The beauty of the mimosa flower is not a result of colorful petals as occurs in most flowers but rather the presence of a great many stamens about two inches in length which vary in color from pinkish hues to light yellowish pink, to coral red. Just like the beauty of lilly of the valley flowers. Of course. the darker colored ones are in greatest demand. Like the lilly flowers, the flowers are clustered in round stalked heads in the axils of the current season's growth. The flowers which continue to appear from July to September are followed by the fruits which consist of flat seed pods which become twisted and curly as they mature.

The mimosa is best planted as a specimen in a sunny, well-drained location. This tree may be injured quite often by our winter's low temperatures, but since flowers are produced on the new growth, a nice display of color may be expected even after the removal of damaged branches in the spring. The mimosa is shy about putting forth its new leaves, but once its mind is made up, the growth appears almost like magic. Propagation is usually by seeds sown in early spring. The seeds are very hard and germination is hastened by soaking them in hot water for about two hours.

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