Mimosa Silk Tree

by Green Deane

in Greens/Pot Herb,Medicinal,Plants,Soap/Saponins,Trees/Shrubs

Albizia julibrissin: Tripinnated Lunch

I was drinking “Mimosas” — orange juice and champagne — about 20 years before I discovered the Mimosa tree was edible. That makes some sense when you realize the tree and the drink have nothing in common except the name (so called because the drink was as smooth as the Mimosa blossom.)

Mimosa blossoms and leaves

Some sites on the Internet say the first tree came the United States in the early 1900s in California. This is doubtful. William Bartram, a botanist who explored Florida and followed a trail not one mile from here, wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson in which he mentions the “mimosa.” He said they were introduced into North Carolina in the late 1700s by none the less than Andre Michaux, the original grand old man of botany in the New World. Gopher Apples are named after him, Licania Michauxii. The next question would be where did Michaux get them? The answer is Europe.

The Mimosa is called Albizia julibrissin (al-BIZ-zee-uh jew-lih-BRISS-in) It was named after the Italian nobleman Filippo del Albizzi, who introduced the tree to Europe in the mid 1700′s. Julibrissin is a corruption of the Persian phrase “Gul-i Abrisham” which means ‘flower of silk.’ Where did Albizzi get it? The tree is native to southern and eastern Asia, from Iran east to China and Korea, perhaps even Japan where I saw many a life time ago when I was in my early 20’s.

My particular tree was a seeding runt along a path I frequented. The long pod, horizontal seeds, and tripinnate leaf helped with the identification. It is not a large tree but in 200 years it has managed to spread up to southern New England, down to Florida, west through the Old South, across Texas, and up the west coast of the United States.

Usually very picturesque, it has graceful, lacy leaves and delicate, pink pompom-like flowers. Those are followed by a flat paper brown seed pods with the seeds perpendicular to the sides of the pod. They are not edible.* It’s young leaves, however, are edible cooked. The Mimosa (Silk Tree) also has numerous herbal and medical applications.

(*I have received one email from a fellow who says his grandmother used to serve him seeds in a tortilla, a practice I have not been able to confirm.)

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: A small deciduous tree growing to 40 feet, broad crown, level or arching branches. Bark is dark green/gray striped vertically as it ages. Leaves tripinnate, flowers densely throughout summer, no petals, a cluster of stamens, white, pink with a white base, looking like silky threads.

TIME OF YEAR: All times of year. Young leaves as long as it is producing them.

ENVIRONMENT: Prefers dry, waste areas, or up hill banks from roads, railroads and right of ways.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Boiled young leaves.  The blossoms are edible like a vegetable or crystallized. The seeds are NOT edible as far as I know.

HERB BLURB:

School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing 100083, People’s Republic of China. Department of Natural Products Chemistry, Shenyang Pharmaceutical University, Shenyang 110016, People’s Republic of China. Accepted 2 February 2006.

Three new triterpenoid saponins, julibroside J29 (1), julibroside J30 (2), and julibroside J31 (3), were isolated from the stem bark of Albizia julibrissin Durazz. (Leguminosae) by using chromatographic method. Their structures were established by spectroscopic methods. Compounds 1, 2, and 3 displayed significant anti-tumor activities in vitro against PC-3M-1E8, HeLa, and MDA-MB-435 cancer cell lines at 10 μM assayed by SRB and MTT methods.

 

 

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Robert M. November 15, 2011 at 13:44

It is a good friction wood also. I have not really tested the bark for cordage much but it is doable for a cord. Its strength may be another matter and I have not really tested that yet.

There is a wild shrub (does not grow as large or tall as the Mimosa) that I often see in the woods that is like a Mimosa by its leaves and leaf pattern is similar. Maybe darker in color. Blooms are different than a Mimosa also. It will not work as a friction wood, nor is its bark fibrous like the Mimosa. I just don’t know the name of it yet but it can be mistaken for a young Mimosa.

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2 Sophia January 21, 2012 at 18:31

We have quite a few trees in my neighborhood which are Aibizzia lebbeck species. I have heard that they have some medicinal use, too, but I am wondering if you know if they can be used in the ways you describe for A. julibrissin.

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3 Green Deane January 23, 2012 at 06:48

As far as I know the A. lebbeck has only medicinal uses.

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4 Marabou March 11, 2012 at 12:45

I haven’t tried it yet, but a. lebbeck is known as zuek in Thailand. I haven’t researched potential toxicity, but
“Albizia lebbeck (L.) Bent. (Albizia, Phak zuek), is the most interesting perennial vegetable, it belongs to legume family. The young shoots and leaves are consumed as vegetable. They are commonly blanched and eaten with nam prik (chili paste). The shoots and leaves are also put in curry soup such as klaeng pa, kaeng som, kaeng liang and etc. with smoke-dried fish.”

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5 Krysta March 19, 2012 at 21:36

In another article you state that the “blossoms” are edible. Is it the flossy fan like part, or the bunches that are edible, and how/when would they be harvested and prepared? I was surprised to see a couple of these trees thriving here in Windsor Ontario, and would be very interested to find out about the edible parts.

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6 Green Deane March 19, 2012 at 22:18

Non-green parts — the blossom — boiled.

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7 Jen April 29, 2012 at 19:24

As a child, I ate a few of the seeds on a dare and don’t remember being ill.

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8 Herb November 8, 2012 at 14:45

I just saw someone collecting the green seed pods from a mimosa tree and eating the seeds raw. After he left I collected a branch with leaves and green seed pods so I could identify it. A few google searches later, I found out it was a Mimosa. While your article says the seeds are not edible, I have to tell you that while the brown, dried out pods are full of rock hard seeds you couldn’t eat without chipping a tooth, the green pods are full of pumpkin seed shaped seeds that taste like peas. I only tried a few in case they are actually poisonous or something. I will post again in a day or so if I’m still alive.

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9 Herb November 9, 2012 at 12:56

I’m fine. I’ve eaten a few pods worth of seeds and my only concern is how I should cook them before adding them to a tortilla.

Obviously, the reader should take this for what it’s worth. Not much, considering I’m an random Internet commenter. Hopefully some one else can confirm that the seeds are edible.

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10 Green Deane November 9, 2012 at 13:06

How do we confirm the exact variety of Mimosa Silk Tree?

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11 Sonuahua January 2, 2013 at 21:17

My girls are still alive and they have eaten plenty of them over the years… no cancer or organ failure, just hearty Missouri girls… :)

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12 Green Deane January 2, 2013 at 21:41

Please, eaten what part of the tree, when collected, and how prepared?

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13 Devon August 5, 2013 at 20:09

ive personally eaten quite a bit of the pods and havent had an issue
i just peel open 1 of the green pods and eat the seeds raw, they taste pretty good
also this website here says you can use the bark in teas, can you confirm this? http://hollirichey.com/2010/06/21/mimosa-the-tree-not-the-drink-brings-happiness/
by the way, im not sure of the exact species of mimosa tree but i live in northwest florida and they grow on just about every street here.i have sampled from multiple trees without issue

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14 RM McWilliams February 3, 2014 at 00:20

Sonuahua, thanks for sharing the info about your girls eating the seeds of the mimosa tree.

By the way, are they hearty, or hardy? Or both? *smile!*

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15 Kay January 29, 2013 at 13:57

I absolutely love, love, love this website!

Can I plant the seeds with any success? Do I need to scarify or not? How long to sprout? Should they be kept in shade or part sun? On the dry side or moist until it sprouts?

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16 Green Deane January 29, 2013 at 16:26

Insert the silk tree seeds about half an inch deep in moist potting soil. The area should be warm (around 75 F) and preferably in direct sunlight. Keep the soil lightly moist and beware over watering it. It only needs to be watered two or three times a week.
In about 10 days, the silk tree seeds will begin to sprout. Continue to keep them warm and lightly watered. Seedlings can be transplanted. Cultivate it intelligently. They can be invasive.

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17 Barbara March 11, 2013 at 05:33

I used to eat the very young seed pods all the time growing up and I was and am quite healthy. I thought the flavor was pleasant, not unlike rose petals or oxalis, which I also ate routinely along with clover and most of the rest of the yard. I never ate the flowers though. Almost seems like trying to eat the choke of an artichoke.

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18 Dogafin June 3, 2013 at 09:16

I just cooked some young shoots and flowers into a pot with sinigang (tamarind) soup mix, with daikon onion garlic and tomatoes, it would be nice with pork and taro but didn’t have any. I’ll have it over rice for breakfast this morning :)
The leaves are very similar to the sampaloc (tamarind) tree, although not sour when eaten raw. When picking shoots I chose parts that are easily plucked off by my fingers, I did however avoided the cauliflower like parts around the blooms. There were no seed pods on the tree I harvested from. Wish me luck! As it is my first time cooking with mimosa.

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19 Jill Warren Lucas June 20, 2013 at 21:13

Glad to find this site. Are the blossoms tasty? They are so abundant right now. I’m interested in making an infusion for a simple syrup or jelly.

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20 Richard July 19, 2013 at 11:35

Where can we buy theses at? Also we live in Tucson, Az. When is the right time to plant them.
Thank you

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21 charley August 9, 2013 at 15:04

seen it mention that it was usable in treating leg ulcers, how is the mimosa tree processed for this use?

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22 Ronyon August 10, 2013 at 16:55

http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Desmanthus+illinoensis

Could this be the Mimosa that people are thinking of when they speak of eating the seed?

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23 mrs. d August 16, 2013 at 02:33

I finally found a site that I relate too. Thank goddness I’m going to taste the podes right now. I will let you know the outcome

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24 mrs. d August 16, 2013 at 02:58

I’m excited about finding this web page. I ate some podes but no effects

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25 Joe September 16, 2013 at 15:45

I eat the leaves of the mimosa tree raw and haven’t had a problem. I also chew on young shoots without issues. So the Albizia julibrissin leaves and shoots are edible raw. I’m not sure about the flower though.

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26 RM McWilliams February 3, 2014 at 11:56

Deane, Have you personally prepared and eaten mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) leaves? And blossoms? A noted plant and permaculture authority in New England recommends this plant as a nitrogen fixer, an ornamental one, at that, but says that ‘though the leaves are said to be edible, I think they taste terrible’. I wonder if this is because of variation
between individual specimens? Or differences in soil and mineral content of the soil affecting the flavor? Or a different climate? Or… individual taste. I presume this authority knows to pick the very young leaves, and to cook them first.

By the way, since many people don’t know how to cook anything (opening a package and microwaving it does not count!) , your videos illustrating preparation and the recipies you include on this site are a valuable resource. Thank you!!

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