Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why people like mimosa trees --and why I don't!

Beautiful, but messy and invasive


Such exotic shadows. You might think this a scene from a tropical paradise or a garden of the Far East. No, these leaf shadows were seen on the door of my funny little garden shed right here in central Kentucky. They are the shadows of mimosa leave.

The mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) tree truly is beautiful. Besides these interesting fern-like pinnate  leaves, they have fragrant pink blooms for a long period of time in mid-summer. The flowers are much enjoyed by hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

These are the sorts of things that make people think they want a mimosa tree in their yard. Think twice before making such a decision! Please -- take my advice seriously. I know this tree well, and here are the reasons I don't like it.

1. It is a messy tree. The long stems of its leaves and its long seed pods have to be raked up.

2.It is an excessively prolific tree -- in other words, invasive. Little mimosa trees pop up in every flower bed, and if not caught right away, they very quickly establish themselves and grow big. That's why I have mimosa leaf shadows on my shed. This tree is growing in a bed of perennials.

3. It is a short-lived tree. Its average lifespan is 10 to 20 years.

4. It is a weak tree. Its brittle wood is easily broken in weather events like ice storms and high winds.

5. It is not a native tree of the Americas. It is originally from Asia. I prefer native trees.

Bottom line: Plant one if you must. But when the problems begin, don't say you weren't warned.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

Photos and text copyright © 2006-2010 by Genevieve L. Netz. All rights reserved. Do not republish without written permission. My e-mail address is gnetz51@gmail.com