Saturday, September 6, 2008
Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pudica)
Mimosa pudica (Sensitive Plant)
The 'sensitive plant', Mimosa pudica, also known as 'humble plant', or 'touch-me-not', is a source of fascination to adults and children alike. It is a fun plant to grow. When you gently touch the narrow fern-like leaflets they almost instantaneously fold together and the leaf stalk droops. This sometimes sets off a chain reaction, with several leaf stalks falling on top of one another, causing the collapse of a whole section of foliage, or perhaps the whole plant. When left to its own devices, the plant gradually returns to normal, this taking up to about half an hour. These movements are called seismonastic movements (reaction to physical shock). At night, the leaves will also fold and bend in movements known as nyctonastic movements (reaction to absence of light).
The stem is erect in young plants, but becomes creeping or trailing with age. The stem is slender, branching, and sparsely to densely prickly, growing to a length of 1.5 m (5 ft). The leaves are bipinnately compound, with one or two pinnae pairs, and 10-26 leaflets per pinna. The petioles are also prickly. Pedunculate (stalked) pale pink or purple flower heads arise from the leaf axils. The globose to ovoid heads are 8-10 mm in diameter (excluding the stamens). On close examination, it is seen that the floret petals are red in their upper part and the filaments are pink to lavender. The fruit consists of clusters of 2-8 pods from 1-2 cm long each, these prickly on the margins. The pods break into 2-5 segments and contain pale brown seeds some 2.5 mm long. The flowers are pollinated by the wind and insects
How to grow
This plant is most often grown as an indoor annual, but is also grown for groundcover. Mimosa pudica need full sun to partial shade, with a rich moist soil. We use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 2 parts loam to 1 part sand or perlite. The soil should be kept evenly moist but not saturated. During the growing season, the plant are fertilized on a weekly basis with a balanced fertilizer diluted to ½ the strength recommended on the label. During the winter months, fertilize on a monthly basis. Winter temperatures should not fall below 65° F; if they do get chilled, then the plant suffers with yellowing of leaves and stems.
Mimosa pudica is propagated from seed. Seed will germinate in 14 to 21 days at 70° F. Place your seeds in a container of warm water and let them soak over night before you plant your seeds. This will help them to sprout faster. First leaves are not ticklish and will not move. About three weeks later, real TickleMe Plant leaves will appear and will move when tickled. As plant grows, more and more leaves will appear as well as branches. The branches will even droop when the leaves are tickled.
In Ayurveda, the plant is described as a plant which folds itself when touched and spreads its leaves once again after a while. It is said to have a bitter and astringent taste, and has a history of use for the treatment of various ailments. Most commonly used is the root, but leaves, flowers, bark, and fruit can also be implemented