Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Sensitive briar flowers and leaves

with 34 comments

Sensitive Briar Flowers and Leaves 0493

Yet another plant I saw on April 19th along US 183 in Burnet County was this sensitive briar, Mimosa roemeriana. The common name comes from the fact that if you touch the compound leaves they fold up within a few seconds.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 25, 2014 at 6:01 AM

34 Responses

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  1. We used to have sensitive grass in my childhood home, Fiji. It was this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimosa_pudica I think. We loved making the leaves close up but we didn’t love accidentally standing on it and getting the prickles in our feet. My father used to try and remove every piece of sensitive grass he found in our garden. ( It was easier than trying to remove prickles from our feet )


    May 25, 2014 at 6:36 AM

    • I first encountered Mimosa pudica (which is similar to Mimosa roemeriana) when I spent two years in Honduras, where the plant is native. The Wikipedia article you linked to says that Mimosa pudica has become “a pantropical weed,” something you confirmed by noting that you know it from your childhood in Fiji. Interesting that people there called it sensitive grass, perhaps because it grows low to the ground, like grass, or even in with the grass in people’s yards. I’ll grant you that the prickles are no fun—I speak from experience—but the rest of the plant is.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 25, 2014 at 6:48 AM

      • Mmmm…I suppose we always called it grass because if left alone it would gradually take over a lawn.


        May 25, 2014 at 8:28 AM

  2. My mother used to raise those. They were fun to play with.

    Jim in IA

    May 25, 2014 at 6:48 AM

    • They still are, says this kid at heart. In Austin we’re fortunate to have Mimosa roemeriana as a native plant, and a fairly common one, at that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 25, 2014 at 6:51 AM

      • My sister-in-law raised one indoors 4′ tall. It had little pink blossoms.

        Jim in IA

        May 25, 2014 at 7:02 AM

        • I have a feeling her plant was a different species, because the kind of sensitive briar shown here mostly spreads along the ground.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 25, 2014 at 7:11 AM

          • I read there are 400 species. She had her plant staked up so it would grow tall.

            Jim in IA

            May 25, 2014 at 1:09 PM

            • I wondered if she had her plant propped up on a support of some sort, and you’ve confirmed it. Yes, there are a lot of Mimosa species, some quite large and others quite small.

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 25, 2014 at 1:14 PM

  3. Very sweet and interesting plants.


    May 25, 2014 at 7:00 AM

    • And fun to touch and watch the leaves close up. Another reason why you’ll have to visit Texas one of these days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 25, 2014 at 7:12 AM

  4. What a cool little plant. Don’t think I’ve seen these in our area.


    May 25, 2014 at 7:25 AM

    • They’re pretty common here. There used to be (and may still be) a group of them on the embankment of Interstate 35 in the part of Austin I lived in until a decade ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 25, 2014 at 9:26 AM

  5. I love those! Never knew what they were called though. As usual when I come here, I learned something today. Thanks!

    Alex Autin

    May 25, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    • You’re most welcome, Alex. When I got interested in native plants 15 years ago I knew practically nothing about them, but now many species have become my botanical friends. I’m still learning new things—fortunately.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 25, 2014 at 9:29 AM

  6. We started seeing these about two weeks ago. They’re especially nice in town because of their low-growing habit. Yard crews and municipal landscapers tend to keep their mowers set higher than sensitive briar, so even along the roadways and in medians, the flower’s abundant. Cute, too.


    May 25, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    • Good point about the mowers: this is one species that profits from keeping its head down, so to speak. In a reply to another comment I mentioned that I used to observe a group of these plants right along the edge of Interstate 35; they seemed to have no trouble surviving mowing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 25, 2014 at 9:33 AM

  7. they look like fireworks. very pretty!


    May 25, 2014 at 10:54 AM

  8. Wow, these are pretty cool…they look like someone painted dandelion seed heads.

    Steve Gingold

    May 25, 2014 at 4:23 PM

    • They are cool and, unlike dandelions, native. Hope you get a chance to play with the leaves someday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 25, 2014 at 6:06 PM

  9. This is a lovely group floral portrait. These blooms, like little puff balls, remind me of our native banksias and grevilleas.

    Mary Mageau

    May 26, 2014 at 5:24 AM

    • Like you, Mary, I usually conceive each of these globes as a little puffball.

      The one time I visited Australia I remember seeing some banksias growing in the Blue Mountains. How nice to have that elaborate genus be native.

      I looked up grevillea just now and found this in Wikipedia: “Grevillea flowers were a traditional favourite among Aborigines for their sweet nectar. This could be shaken onto the hand to enjoy, or into a coolamon with a little water to make a sweet drink. They might be referred to as the original ‘bush lollies’. Drinking nectar direct from the flower is best avoided as some commonly cultivated Grevillea species produce flowers containing toxic cyanide.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2014 at 6:40 AM

      • Fascinating, Steve. I won’t be tempted now to eat or drink their nectar. It’s enough to enjoy their abundant beauty.

        Mary Mageau

        May 26, 2014 at 7:56 PM

  10. My, those are pretty! I’ve never seen anything like them.


    May 26, 2014 at 10:48 PM

  11. wow, amazing capture

    aletta mes

    June 7, 2014 at 10:58 PM

    • I’m glad you like it, Aletta, but I wouldn’t want to take too much credit because this was an easier shot than some of the others you’ll find in these posts. You often can’t tell from the images themselves which ones I had to work hard to get.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 7, 2014 at 11:07 PM

  12. […] memorialized in the scientific names of Texas wildflowers, such as cedar sage (Salvia roemeriana), sensitive briar (Mimosa roemeriana), and two-leafed senna (Senna […]

  13. This is gorgeous. Mimosa roemeriana, according to the USDA map, is not present in P.R..

    Maria F.

    June 17, 2014 at 8:11 PM

  14. […] eriophylla, known fancifully as fairy duster. If you see some resemblance to the flowers of the sensitive briar and fragrant mimosa and feather dalea that have appeared in these pages, that’s because all […]

  15. […] illinoensis, and the plant’s shadowed leaves. Unlike its relatives tropical neptunia and sensitive briar, the prairie mimosa has compound leaves that do not close up when […]

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