Murmurs about mimosa

Published 6:15 am Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) is an imported ornamental that is very common in our area and is most noticed when it produces its fluffy pink flowers in the summer. Its commonness is worrisome from a forest health standpoint.

Mimosa is a native from Iran to Japan, but it was brought to North America as a yard ornamental. It then naturalized into the wild and is easily found growing along roadsides and on abandoned land.

It is a smallish tree growing to only about 40 feet tall, but has a wide spreading crown. It has feather-like compound leaves that are 9-12 inches long and made up of many small finger-like leaflets. The flowers are fragrant and look like bright pink powder puffs. The fruit is a long bean pod that turns brown and hangs on the tree on into winter. Teas and tinctures made from the bark and flowers have traditionally been used as an herbal medicine to improve mood and relieve anxiety.

What worries me about mimosa is its encroachment, for I’m seeing more and more of it around. It’s listed as an exotic invasive plant, meaning it has potential to shove out our native trees which are much more important for timber and wildlife, and messes with the forest ecosystem. If you have mimosa on your property and are not using it as a landscape plant, I recommend eradication to prevent its spread.

The list of invasive exotic plants is getting longer each year: Kudzu, multiflora rose, buttercup, autumn olive, tree of heaven and a multitude of other plants are taking over in places and their control gets more expensive each year. Beware of what you plant on your land. Do some research to make sure you’re not turning loose a green Frankenstein.

Steve Roark is a retired area forester from Tazewell, Tennessee.