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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mid-century landscaping: Mimosa tree

According to gardenguides.com, mimosa trees were introduced to the United States in 1745. They originated in China and are also called silk trees. They can grow 20-40 feet tall and have fern-like leaves and fragrant hot pink pom-pom flowers.

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 blooms
vagabondanne.com
Mimosa leaves during the daytime
treesthatpleasenurseryblog.com
Mimosa leaves closing as evening approaches
treesthatpleasenurseryblog.com
Mimosa beans
redbubble.com
Graceful mimosa limbs
forestry.alabama.gov
A study in pink, underneath the Mimosa tree
jamesradke.wordpress.com
picasaweb.google.com - Lienhard Design

25 comments:

  1. What a spectacularly beautiful tree. I wish I could smell that fragrance you write about so evocatively Dana. Sounds like the perfect tree for kids (and grown -ups) well worth a bit of mess. Plant more Mimosa's I say. Wonder if we can get our hands on one here in Australia...

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    1. They truly are beautiful, and you'd love the scent. I would think your climate would be conducive to growing mimosas. We have many of the same plants.

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  2. I agree with Kylie. Those flowers look reminiscent of a tree we had in our yard. I thought it was an Australian Native ... it had pink powder puff-like flowers, but had no scent. Maybe someone will know what I'm talking about.

    Here's to the Mimosa!

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    1. Yes, here's to the mimosa...the tree AND the drink! ;)

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  3. We have them in our area of Virginia. they are a gorgeous tree, just love them.

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    1. Are people still planting them at new constructions, or do you mainly just see them in yards of older homes like here?

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  4. They are all over the place up here in Missouri. My parent's neighbors planted a couple of them a few years ago. I would love to have one, but I have no place for it, so I just keep cutting down the ones the keep sprouting up in my yard. When I planted the new tree in my front yard several years ago, I took a look at the oldest trees in my neighborhood to see what was popular when the houses were built in the late 1950s, and I went with a river birch.

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    1. River birches are beautiful trees. Do you have a lot of clean-up when the bark exfoliates?

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    2. It hasn't been too bad so far. The worst problem I have had is convincing it to keep it's leaves during the past two dry, hot summers!

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  5. The Mimosa looks to be a rather gorgeous tree!
    You had me at powder puffs! ;)

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    1. I spent countless hours in the mimosa tree in my grandparents' back yard, singing Doris Day songs (Que Sera Sera stands out in my memory.) and pretending to powder my nose. :)

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  6. Mimosa blooms are stunning, almost too stunning to be real!! I am such a country-bumpkin, I'm not sure I've ever seen a Mimosa in real life . . .

    P.S. I gave Mid2Mod blog a little blog love today. I blogged about my Shmoo find and a Krenit bowl. Squeal.

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    1. Mimosas probably can't tolerate the winters up there, and since they may have been off the beaten path when you've made visits to the southern states in the U.S.

      I'll have to jump right over to your blog and see your post! :)

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  7. Beautiful! They remind me of the bottle brush tree in the front yard of the house I grew up in in San Diego.

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    1. They do look very similar. Bottle brush trees are gorgeous too.

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  8. I love your blog Dana! You always write about stuff that just takes me back in time...childhood growing up in Shreveport, high school days in Hurst, Tx and now this post about mimosa trees. We have a tiny one by out front door now...and a neighbor used to have a huge mimosa in their yard across the street in Pasadena, Tx in the 90's. My kids called it the 'hair dolly tree'... She died and the new people that bought her house cut it down. We moved...

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    1. Doesn't it amaze you how few mimosas you see now compared to when you were a kid growing up? I do think a lot of people have cut them down over the years, because they tend reproduce quickly, and they require a lot of clean-up. But they're so pretty...

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  9. Dana, We have a lot of these trees in my part of Brooklyn. I love the leaves that loo like little ferns. New Yorkers love their flowering trees, It's not useful if it doesn't produce flowers. I'm glad they have that attitude because it's really nice to see these trees all over the place.We don't have grass on the streets so it can look pretty barren. I'll look around and see what they plant at new constructions.

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    1. I had never thought about it before, but it makes perfect sense that New Yorkers would enjoy the added benefit of flowering trees to make up for the lack of grassy areas elsewhere. We Texans take for granted how much greenery we see everyday...even the most modest homes with large yards, green spaces between buildings, grassy medians between city streets, sometimes with elaborate landscaping. Grass, shrubs and trees are everywhere. We still have lots of empty land within our city limits in many Texas towns...some on the outskirts with cows grazing. :)

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  10. I just inherited one in the new house! I am super excited to have one. I've heard as long as your vigilent with sweeping up the pods they won't overpopulate the world. Although for as beautiful as they are, I am not really sure that would be such a bad thing! I also inherited a pomegranate tree (lovely red blooms) and finally a live oak to boot. I am very tree-lucky in this new house for sure. =)

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    1. Lucky you! It sounds like your house is going to be fantastic, inside and out.

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  11. I love mimosas and have been wanting to plant one for a long time (would be great near the pond). Around here, though, they are considered invasive and not sold in nurseries- tho I suppose I could just dig one up from the side of the road somewhere, LOL.

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    1. My landscaper said they are generally considered nuisance trees in Texas too, but they they could special order one if I decided that's what I want. I have such fond memories of playing in them during my childhood that I think it would almost be worth putting up with the blooms and the beans.

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  12. Great article, the mimosa is much more graceful appearing than I last remember. Hmm..

    -Samudaworth Tree Service
    Tree Pruning Brooklyn

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    1. Yes, they are very lovely, showy trees, I think.

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