June 22, 2017

No Shrinking Violet

Mimosa pudica - Sensitive plant

Janine Pineo Photo | Mimosa pudica – Sensitive plant

Touch the tropical-looking leaves on Mimosa pudica and a most peculiar thing occurs: The leaves fold and droop. Commonly called the “Sensitive plant,” M. pudica is among a number of plants that have foliage that “sleeps” at night, but also undergoes a change when touched, shaken, stirred by the wind, or hit with water. The explanation is less than romantic – unless you are a scientist – because it is the result of a chemical change where the plant is affected. The chemicals force water out of the cells and the resulting cell collapse causes the closing of the leaves. It’s a bit more complicated, but that’s the nutshell version. Even the name of this tropical plant alludes to its sensitive nature. Pudica means shy, bashful or shrinking. The good news is that once the irritation stops, the plant usually recovers in a few minutes, with the leaves restored to their pre-touch position. And did we mention that it has pink puffs for blossoms? Or that there are sharp thorns on the stems once the plant matures to flowering stage? Or that a compound in the roots has shown that it inhibits the lethality of venom in the monocled cobra? M. pudica is really no shrinking violet, despite its first impression.

Mimosa pudica - Sensitive plant

Janine Pineo Photo | Mimosa pudica – Sensitive plant