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A Floridata Plant Profile #129 Albizia julibrissin
Common Names: silk tree, mimosa
Family: Fabaceae/Leguminosae (bean Family)
Wallpaper Gallery (6 images)

tree  Fast Growing Drought Tolerant Flowers Useful for fresh and/or dried arrangements Fragrant

Both this years flowers and last year's seed pods are present on the tree in late Spring.
Silk tree is a fast growing, deciduous small tree reaching heights up to 35 ft (10.7 m). The mimosa, as it is also called, has an open, airy, umbrellalike canopy often with multiple trunks. The trunk is smooth and the branches arch gracefully. The leaves are about 1 ft (0.3 m) long, held alternately on the stem and twice compound. Each featherlike leaf has a central rachis (leaf stem) with a dozen or so side branches bearing the 0.5 in (1.3 cm) leaflets. The tiny flowers are pink and arranged in compound clusters about 6 in (15.2 cm) across that look like fluffy silk powder puffs. Their fragrance fills the mid-summer air and attracts honey bees. The flattened seeds are held in pods, 4-8 in (10.2-20.3 cm) long and 1.5 in (3.8 cm) wide. There are several named cultivars differing mainly in flower color.

There are over a hundred species of Albizia, all native to Asia, Africa or Australia. Originally from China, this tree has been cultivated as an ornamental in the southeastern United States and Europe since the 18th century. In many areas it has escaped cultivation and is now established, growing and reproducing on its own along roadways and other disturbed areas.

click to download a large version of this mimosa tree
Click to download a large version (800x600) of these mimosa trees bracing for a spring thunderstorm.
click to download a large version of this mimosa blossom
Click to download a large version (800x600) of this closeup of a particularly pink mimosa blossom.
Best in full sun; tolerates partial shade.
Moisture: Drought tolerant.
Soil: Thrives in a wide range of soil conditions, including alkaline soils.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-9. Withstands total neglect, as evidenced by its naturalization throughout the southeastern U.S. from Washington D.C. to Florida.
Propagation: Seed, but the hard seat coat requires scarification before germination can occur. Nick the seed with a file, soak it in sulfuric acid, or plunge it into boiling water.

Silk tree makes a beautiful lawn accent. The graceful, leafy canopy permits enough light for grass to grow right up to the trunk. Often planted (or volunteer seedlings are encouraged) around homes, decks, patios and porches where they provide summertime shade without threatening the roof. Silk tree is susceptible to a fungus blight that attacks older, larger trees and kills them quickly. Fortunately silk trees can grow as fast as 3 ft (0.9 m) per year or more so landscape specimens are quickly replaced.

silk tree
This multi-stemmed mature silk tree stands 30 ft high to form a beautiful umbrellalike crown.
This is a great tree to grow right next to the house so it can expand over the roof or patio. The open, airy canopy makes silk trees highly wind-resistant, and they never get big enough to cause damage if they should break off. The leaflets fold up at night, allowing heat to escape from the roof or patio. And, all the leaves fall off in winter so the sun can get through.

WARNING: Silk tree is listed by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council as a Category I species, defined as an invasive exotic plant that is disrupting native plant communities. In many parts of Florida and the southeast, silk tree has invaded road shoulders, abandoned fields and (in rare cases) natural habitats. I (SC) think its threat to natural plant communities is overstated.

Steve Christman 5/29/97; Updated 7/05/98, 9/9/00, 5/31/04, 6/15/04, 6/3/06, 3/10/08

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