When I was growing up in East Texas in the 50s and 60s, almost every yard had a mimosa tree. Now I rarely see them. I was talking to the owner of a local nursery not long ago, and he said he doesn't keep them in stock any longer but can special order them. According to him, trees go in and out of style, just like everything else, and these days, they seem to have fallen out of favor.
Some controversy exists about whether the beans are potentially harmful. The University of Arkansas says they are not harmful to humans, and I certainly never suffered any ill effects from hours of playing with them. However, some sources say the pods can be harmful to livestock. Then there's the fact that mimosas are fast growers and can be found on some invasive plant lists. And many gardeners today don't like the clean-up that goes along with flowering trees.
That's really a shame, because in addition to the tree's wonderful scent that travels on the breeze and can fill an entire neighborhood with its sweet fragrance, mimosa trees are perfect for kids to climb. They start to branch out low to the ground, so it's easy to get your first foothold. Also, the gray bark has enough texture to make it easy to shinny up a limb, but it's smooth enough not to scrape your knees. And what kid doesn't love a tree with leaves that close at night, beans you can pretend to cook and flowers you can use as make-believe powder puffs?
|Mimosa leaves closing as evening approaches|