Invasive silk tree

It’s now in full bloom. Some think the flowers are gorgeous and want one in their yard. Maybe if they quit mowing their lawn they’d get their wish. The mimosa is that ‘Dr. Seuss-like’ tree with spreading branches and copious delicate and fragrant pink blooms. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love them.

After flowers disappear, distinctive bean-like pods form, assuming flowers have been pollinated. Mimosas are self-sterile, which means another tree must be present within a few hundred yards. Pods grow to six inches long and have flat seeds inside. They usually remain on the tree during winter. Seeds can be viable for many years and usually require some type of weathering to germinate. An animal’s digestive system can suffice but seeds are toxic to many.

Botanists refer to the leaf arrangement as bipinnate. Many tiny leaflets comprise each leaf giving the tree a fern-like feathery appearance. Leaves fold up at night and during rainstorms for protection.

Though individual leaflets are small, the combined effect creates a dense canopy that keeps light from reaching the ground underneath. This forces many existing native plants to suffer from lack of light. Most turfgrasses struggle underneath them.

Sometimes called silk trees, they are members of the bean family. This group of plants has bacteria that grow on the roots and trap nitrogen for their benefit. Consequently, mimosas can grow on poor soils with low fertility. For this reason we find them everywhere.

They are fast growing short lived trees. Twenty years is an old tree. They can reach heights of 25 feet with a 35 foot spread. The wood is weak but since trees are usually small, they seldom cause damage. Mimosas prefer sunny locations but can grow in partial shade. Bloom is less under shady conditions though.

So what if we don’t want them on our property? Cut them and treat the stumps when in active growth. Concentrated Round-up works well, but you still might have a few suckers coming up from the roots away from the main trunk. You also may have them pop up on other parts of your property, since they spread by seeds and production is prolific. Keep your lawn mowed and inspect your shrubbery regularly. Plants are easy to recognize.

Is there a use for them other than their delicate looks? Yes, parts of them are edible. The flowers can be eaten raw or steeped as a tea. They are high in antioxidants which decrease the danger associated with high LDL cholesterol.

The bark also makes a useful medicinal tea. Don’t eat the seeds though. They contain neurotoxins and are toxic. According to numerous sources, the mimosa has been used medicinally to counteract insomnia and as an antidepressant. Some call it the tree of happiness.

Traditional Chinese medicine has relied on mimosa to counteract depression, anger, grief and poor memory for centuries. I haven’t found any documented side-effects of mimosa flowers and bark. However, I feel mimosa’s beauty is best taken in through the eyes and not the mouth.


mimosa in bloom


mimosa blooms


mimosa foliage

Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I recently retired from teaching high school agriculture after 25 years teaching with my wife. Until recently I wrote a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper ( I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone (presently out of print), a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death (this one is not yet published). In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books. I also wrote a romance novel titled Virginia. It is available on Amazon and is a different type of romance from a man's perspective.
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18 Responses to Invasive silk tree

  1. These are beautiful. I didn’t know it was used in medicines. That’s very good to know because I’m headed in the medical direction ! I’m really loving these articles !

  2. donnashawna says:

    These flowers are so beautiful. Ididnt know this flower could be used in medicines.

  3. I’ve never heard of using bark for tea. I thought tea could only be made from leaves ot flowers. It’s amazing how this plant can be used as medicine but the seeds are toxic.

  4. My grandmother has one in her yard and we always used to climb on it! the pretty flowers would always fall off and be all over the place, its hard to think that a tree we treated badly could be used for so much!!

  5. i think this tree is veru unique because it has leaves along with flowers blooming on it as well

  6. These flowers are beautiful. It seems like almost everything can be used for medicine but Just knowing that the seed are toxic make me worry about them using this plant as medicaine.

  7. Very pretty tree I used to have one at my old house its a shame that they are short lived tree.

  8. tjones123 says:

    ive seen alot if these trees in my life. my nana used to have a big ne in her yard that we would climb. the flowers are one of a kind.

  9. amandawensel says:

    its crazy how many beautiful flowers have a medical purpose to them. Like flowers i normally considered as a normal flower with no special features besides beauty and scents, but really they have a really good back ground to them.

  10. ive seen this tree alot it has beautiful flowers and its unique.

  11. cjbvans says:

    I believe I’ve seen one of these when I lived in Florida. Would’ve never known that this tree could be used for medicine or even tea.

  12. intresting how some plants can fold there leaves and or flowers at night or during a storm.

  13. its very pretty. its weird how one part of the plant is toxic and another part can be used for medicine.

  14. This plant has been counteracting depression, anger, grief and poor memory for centuries which is pretty cool because i would have never thought a plant could do all of that.

  15. sbright16 says:

    My mom use to have these and I hated them because they would get on my car and wouldn’t come off

  16. its nice that it has so many uses that help people

  17. curtis24 says:

    Silk trees are a member of the bean family, which have bean like pods after the flowers disappear.The individual leaflets are small.they can reach heights of 25 feet and a spread of 35 feet.

  18. swampyro says:

    We planted a seedling from a tree at a neighbouring property, here in Queensland Australia, the bees love it. The tree had been there for many years as l know it, and ours is over 7 years old, will be interesting to see how long it lives.

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