Thursday, April 22, 2010

A sensitive topic

Hush! Now here's something rather sensitive. Can you guess what this slightly pinecone-like thing will eventually turn into?

Okay, here's a closer look ... watch out for those thorns, though. They're among the meanest things I've ever come across... lethal weapons, indeed!
I love those first peeps of colour ... hot pink flashing through all that green!

Mimosa pudica, touch-me-not, sensitive plant, humble plant ... so many aliases for one tiny little plant!

Novelty plant or noxious weed, depending on where you garden.
In my part of the world, it has to be among the most stubborn, difficult-to-clear weed. Found almost all over coastal India, I've seen these little plants blanket just about every kind of terrain.

The feathery leaves that coyly fold up when touched, give it such a delicate, absolutely harmless appearance ( and its basketful of names).
Until one sticks a hand close to it ... ouch! All those wicked thorns can make you feel like you've been stabbed by a zillion stilletoes and had acid poured into the wounds!
Pity the poor gardener, then, who has to weed these deceptive weeds out of every garden patch only to helplessly watch just as many appear within days.

It was only after I moved to Mumbai where the mimosa seems to have been concreted out of existence, that I realised that maybe the mimosa does have its finer points ( I had always been too busy cursing it out for all the cuts and scrapes it gives anyone who gets too close, to see them) .
Such as, its soft, light as a wisp, powder-puff-like blooms. Imagine whole fields dotted with these candy-floss pink buttons set in feathery green ... see what I mean?
And those delicate-as-lace, quick-to-react leaves which give it the added attraction of being a plant which actually does something.

Which is probably why my 12-year old daughter, who after her first school trip to an organic farm, came home proudly brandishing her first plant purchase.
A Mimosa pudica!

17 comments:

  1. Bhuaa - The Hindi name of a small insect And if someone unknowingly having fingers or hands on it, the same effect. Anyways, your knowledge about plants - appreciated. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. It is such a delicate bloom to have such thorns... They are very pretty and a whole field, I bet is beautiful. However, Ouch....

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  3. Hobo, I've never heard that one before ... thanks for the info :)
    I forgot to add, the mimosa pudica is considered an Ayurvedic medicinal herbs too. Isn't that amazing?

    You're right, Amy. A deadly beauty! ;)
    Ummm... and its beauty wont make it any easier to walk on that flower-strewn field. lol!

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  4. Wow.. i didnt imagine from the first pic that this is Mimosa pudica. I remember having fun touching the leaves.. and making them sleep :). Ammu was also amused when i first showed it to her!

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  5. So pretty, yet so painful, Ouch! This reminds me of the time I tried to dig up a wild catcus when we lived in Texas. It took me weeks to get all the stickers out of my fingers!

    Your snake is a bit scary inside the house! I once found frogs in our house but we discovered how they were getting in and solved that problem. Thank goodness a snake did not follow them in, Yikes!

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  6. What a delicate and interesting bloom, it's really too bad that it isn't 'touch friendly', but I suppose it's to protect the plant, not to frustrate us gardeners ;). I haven't yet introduced anything throny into my garden, but just might this year.

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  7. So lovely...I did not recognize..
    regards
    Andrea

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  8. I remember this from my schooldays. It grew in the beds and we were awed to see the leaves closing when touched and also we remember our teacher talking about plant movement, but I don't remember it hurting me... I've never laid eyes on it ever since until now. Thank you for kindling the sweet memories...

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  9. Priya, I used to love doing that too. I think getting 'fun plants' is the first step to enjoying gardening.

    That must've been really painful, Skeeter! I think I've done that once too often too when I was a child. Gave me a really healthy respect for cactii!
    You're right about the snake. I keep having nightmares along the "what-if" lines. Such as "what if it had been a cobra", "what if it had been one of the kids who had walked in instead of me" ... :P

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  10. You're right, Rebecca, but I suppose we gardeners tend to be short-sighted about plants which are not too comfortable for us to handle ;D
    I have purposely kept my daughter's mimosa in my apartment garden where it can do the least possible harm. I dare not even think of introducing it to my other bigger garden!

    Hi Andrea! You're right, the bloom is so pretty isn't it?

    Chandramouli, I'm surprised that you dont see more of the mimosa in Chennai. Or maybe, like Mumbai, development has got the better of it!
    Schools seem to love the mimosa pudica. In just about every science textbook that I've seen, the mimosa makes an appearance at least once. Such an interesting plant, isn't it?

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  11. Sensitive plant is a really bad weed in our area, you have to wear gloves to get right down and grab all the roots when weeding.

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  12. I found the plant fascinating as a kid, we were forever making the leaves 'go to sleep' :) Not at all surprised your daughter bought this one :)

    Never realised (or noticed) what lovely blooms it had!!

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  13. Aah, but you're tropical too, aren't you, Africanaussie? Only we seem to be so afflicted by the mimosas. The lucky ones in more temperate lands get to pamper them and ooh-aah at the novelty of those miserable weeds.

    Me too, IHM! :D I think it has to be a typical pastime of kids in India (except those in the metros).
    Yes, I could see its attraction when my daughter bought it but oh! the irony of it! Just when I had spent the better part of my gardening life trying to exterminate it!

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  14. As a child I loved playing with this plant. We would sing "Mary Mary close your doors, the police is coming to find you" and touch the leaves. I agree that they are such a pest and a lethal one too.

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  15. I can imagine how much fun a child would get from that rhyme and the immediate frantic shutting-down of the mimosa :D
    Thanks, Helen. That is a totally new one for me.

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  16. I love playing with it when I was small. I always admire this "magical" plant, so I thought back then :) That is a great shot as I can't recognize it at the beginning.. I hate its thorns, I still do :)

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  17. Fini, I never really noticed the buds of the mimosa pudica earlier either. I guess it took my having a potted one in my apartment garden for me to appreciate it (a little). And yes, I hate those thorns too. They're really mean!

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