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Wisconsin's Tropical Gardens

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MIMOSA - Sensitive Plant

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The Mimosa or Sensitive Plant is an attractive plant that has the unusual habit of collapsing its leaves and branches when touched. When a leaf of the mimosa plant is touched, a minute electric current is generated that is quickly transmitted to the cells at the base of each leaflet. As soon as the signal arrives to the cells, the water contained in the cells is released. Due to loss of water, the leaves collapse downward.This is a unique protective mechanism that gives the plant the look of being dead which is less attractive to herbivores.

Scientists theorize that Mimosa pudica uses seismonastic movement to make itself less appetizing to herbivores looking for a meal. They speculate that droopy, closed leaves appear to be less appealing than plump, open ones. Another theory is that drooping leaves exchange less heat and water than fully expanded ones, and this may help the plant survive in stressful environmental conditions.

The juices of the mimosa are poisonous, which protects it from being eaten, and the prickles on the stems and leaves are also toxic, which deters any intruders from touching it. The plant has no known medicinal properties, although it's currently being researched by pharmaceutical companies for medicinal value.

The small leaflets are arranged evenly along both sides of the stem. It can grow to bush form if given enough time and good conditions. It may even bloom during the summer, bearing globe-shaped pink flower heads.

CULTURE: Provide a minimum of 60°, bright light and evenly moist soil. Decrease watering during the winter months.

A specialty plant, this is seldom available. If available, it will be growing in 4" pots.