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Albizia julibrissin, or more commonly known as the Silk Tree, Persian Silk Tree, Mimosa, or Pink Tree is a member of the Fabaceae (pea) family. It is a fast-growing, small to medium sized, deciduous tree that typically grows in a vase-like shape often having an umbrella-like crown. This tree is native to Asia. The genus name honours Filippo degli Albizzia, 18th century Italian naturalist, who introduced the genus to Italy in 1749. Specific epithet comes from the Persian word gul-ebruschin meaning floss silk in reference to the flowers. The Chinese have used the bark and flowers of the Mimosa tree for centuries to relieve anxiety, stress and depression. Considered invasive, the silk tree attracts hummingbirds, bees, songbirds, and butterflies.
The bark is light brown to gray and it is smooth. Silk tree wood is weak and brittle.
The young branches are lime green in colour and later change to light brown or a brown/copper colour. They are covered with lenticels as they age.
This tree can reach anywhere from 6 to 12 metres (20 to 40’) tall.
Silk tree leaves are bipinnate compound dark green leaves up to 50 cm (20”) long. Each leaf has 10 to 25 pinnae, with each pinnae having 40 to 60 tiny leaflets 1/2 cm (1/4”) long. Leaves have a unique fern-like appearance. Leaflets are sensitive and close up when touched and at night. They fall to the ground after frost, therefore producing no fall colour.
The flowers bloom from May to August depending on location. They are fragrant, which makes them attractive to bees. The radial-shaped flower is pink/white and has pom-pom like clusters of 15 to 25 small silk threads. Each flower cluster grows at the base of the current year's twigs. Each flower measures 2.5 - 7.5 cm (1-3").
Silk tree fruits are brown flat elongated pods measuring 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8”) and about 2.5 cm (1”) wide. Each seed pod contains about 5 to 10 light brown oval-shaped seeds. Depending on location, fruits first appear in June and mature by August to November. The seeds are typically dispersed from September to November.
Prefers dry, waste areas, clearings, wood margins, fields and along roads. It can be quite invasive in watersheds where water currents carry and distribute the seeds. It has been widely planted in the U.S. and parts of Canada as an ornamental and has escaped cultivation and naturalized in many areas. They prefer rich, light soils and full sun.
According to Plans for a Future, young leaves are edible when cooked. They have an aromatic flavour. Flowers are also edible when cooked or they can be crystalized. The dried leaves can be used for making an herbal tea.
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