Mimosa pudica - The Sensitive Plant; Shy Plant; Sleep or Tickle Me Plant
There are many different varieties of Mimosa, some are annuals, others large trees or shrubs. The Sensitive plant - Mimosa pudica - is most often grown as a houseplant and it has feathery fronds which respond, when touched, by folding up. The leaflets re-open after about half an hour. The leaf fronds naturally close up at night – hence its name of the ‘Sleep Plant.
The flowers resemble tiny pink baubles, and the shrub is treated as an annual, its straggly growth habit rarely exceeds 60cm tall. As well as being low growing, the sensitive plants has a spreading habit in the wild, and this would lend itself to being grown in a wide pan rather than the normal pot in which it is sold and produced.
The Flowers of the Sensitive Plant - Mimosa pudica
Its native habitat is now most parts of Asia, after spreading from the tropical North and South American areas. It is often a troublesome weed in areas which grow coconuts, sweet corn and pineapples. It is particularly nasty in the stems are prickly with savage thorns along the stems, so a little bit of a menace for hand weeding.
Dry stony areas and scrublands seem to be the natural liking – often colonizing large areas to the exclusion of all b ut the most stubborn grasses and shrubs.
As a houseplant, it is normally just the foliage that collapses upon touch, however as an invasive ‘weed’ in the tropics, the whole plant collapses upon touch or disturbance. This and its thorny stems, are probably first line of defence, against grazing and other vegetarian wildlife.
The Shy Plant, as otherwise known, is an attractive foliage plant, which people will not be able to resist touching once they know it is touch sensitive. The ‘shy’ plant is derived from its name of Mimosa pudica, with the Latin ‘pudica’ part of the name meaning shy, shyness or sensitivity. It is also known as the ‘Tickle Me Plant’ for obvious reasons
Be aware that repeated touching, tickling or otherwise 'activating' the leaves can weaken the plant, so whilst it is good as a party feature, the sensitive plant should be treated as its name implies - Sensitively!
There are several uses of Mimosa pudica in folk medicine, one of the most interesting being that an extract of the root system has been successfully used to negate the lethal properties of the venom several Cobra species.
One of the chemical that has been isolated has been found to have beneficial halting effects of the human threadworm parasites.