Mimosa pudica L.

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Leguminosae Synonyms

M. hirsuta HBK; M. pudibunda Willd.

Common names

Sensitive plant (Australia), sien-sien (Suriname), hila hila (Hawaii).

Description

A prostrate to semierect herb, 0.3 to 0.8 m tall, often forming a small compact bush about 0.6 m tall; branches glabrous or pubescent, heavily armed with broad-based, black-tipped recurved thorns. Leaves small, sensitive, bipinnate; leaflets about 16 pairs; petioles up to 4 cm long. Inflorescence of axillary headlike spikes, flowers pinkish, sessile. Pods usually in a dense cluster, 10 to 15 mm long and 4 mm wide, flat, segmented, somewhat constricted between the articulations, one-seeded segments (Woodson and Schery, 1950).

Distribution

Native to tropical America from southern Mexico to Central America, West Indies, Hawaii, Fiji and Australia.

Characteristics

It is very common in the high rainfall areas of Fiji and Hawaii, where it is grazed by livestock in areas in which it is difficult to establish other legumes­e.g. in the humid and fog-prone windward slopes of high mountains (Ripperton and Hosaka, 1942) . In Fiji, it is a useful forage for dairy cows in the wet zone in the winter, but in the dry zone near Sigatoka it is a troublesome weed, germinating prolifically wherever the ground is disturbed.