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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Friday - February 21, 2014

From: Janesville, WI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Problem Plants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Is Mimosa pudica poisonous from Janesville WI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have just recently learned of Mimosa Pudica also known as the sensitive plant. I see using the USDA website that it can be found in the USA so I think that covers the North America aspect. I have been trying to determine if its Toxic. I have searched on the internet and have come up with conflicting answers and the USDA plant guide says nothing about this topic. I would like to bring it into the daycare where I work however I do not want to if its poisonous. Could you please let me know and if it is is there anything that is similar that isn't?

ANSWER:

First, here is a U. S. Forestry Services article on this plant.This article is a little difficult to read but we extracted this piece of information:

"Sensitive plant is a small, prostrate or ascending, short-lived shrub. Some authors consider it a woody herb. It may reach 1 m in height when supported on other vegetation and more than 2 m in horizontal extension. The reddish-brown, woody stems are sparsely or densely armed with curved prickles."
You probably don't want to bring something "armed" with prickles into your daycare.

Next, read this article The Sensitive Plant by Dr. T. Umbrello, UCC Biology Department.

From that second article, especially note this paragraph:

"There are over 300 species of Mimosa that belong to the bean (pea) family Leguminosae.  This species, Mimosa pudica, is native to Brazil but is naturalized throughout the tropics of  the Americas, Africa, and Asia.  It runs wild as a weed in the Gulf States."

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in whcih they are being grown; in your case, Rock County, on the southern border of Wisconsin. Since we have no information on this plant in our Native Plant Database, we really can't tell you if it would grow in Wisconsin. We have found no information that Mimosa pudica is toxic, but neither do we know if it is not.

So, we have to tell you that Mimosa pudica is not native to North America. It grows in North America, but is an invasive weed here. However, in our Native Plant Database, we do have Chamaecrista fasciculata (Partridge pea), which also has the common name of Sensitive Plant. This plant also has leaves that fold in when touched, if that was the feature you were interested in. You can follow that plant link to our webpage on it for more information. According to this USDA Plant Profile Map, it does grow natively in Rock County, WI.

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Partridge pea
Chamaecrista fasciculata

Partridge pea
Chamaecrista fasciculata

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