Dad, what is this?

Published 3:12 pm Thursday, May 30, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

We had a great time last weekend, busy as usual. The weekend began in Swansboro at a wonderful lacrosse event called Shootout for Soldiers. I had never heard of this event before, but it’s held all over the United States to raise money and benefit our veterans. It is billed as 24 straight hours of lacrosse. We played a few games and my son won the skills competition.
Our next event was Sunday afternoon. We were invited to a graduation party where we were able to celebrate several of Beaufort County’s Senior Class as they prepare to head off into the world. The party was in beautiful Washington Park along the river.
The tranquil waves of the Pamlico River gently lapped the shore as we chowed down on barbeque and plenty of fixings. We were enjoying the breeze as it blew through the Spanish moss when my daughter and her really close friend brought us flowers and leaves. They asked what they were and why the leaves were folded up in their little hands. This, of course, was the flower and leaves from the Mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin).

I told the girls that the flower looked like a fishing lure you might use to catch trout in the mountains. The flowers are unique and exquisite with their shades of pink and silky-looking blooms. Another common name for the tree is the Persian Silk Tree due to the features of the blooms. The mimosa is a member of the legume (Fabaceae) family. In June it will have seed pods that begin to grow. These will mature in the fall to resemble the longest snow peas you have ever imagined. These seeds are not something you want around your livestock or dogs; they produce a highly toxic neurotoxin when ingested.

The tree is typically a medium-sized tree and is fairly short-lived, averaging only 30 years. It prefers full sun and has leaves that resemble a fern. These leaves will turn down at night and when it rains (or if they have been picked). That is why they were so interesting to the girls.

The mimosa tree is native to Asia and was first cultivated in the United States all the way back in 1745. Originally it was brought as an ornamental selection for its unique and fragrant flowers. These days it inhabits disturbed areas, roadsides, and flood plains along with many residential properties in North Carolina. Although the flowers support bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, the Persian Silk Tree is now considered invasive in North Carolina because it displaces native vegetation. It produces a large number of viable seeds that readily disperse and volunteer. The leaves, blooms, and seed pods are very messy. The tree is host to several issues from mites and webworms to vascular wilt disease and several others.

It was a great weekend. We found the girls on the little dock as the celebration began to die down. They had tied that mimosa bloom to a stick and they were trying to catch a fish!

If you are having trouble with growing in your home landscape, call the Extension office to talk to an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:00 to 12:00 at (252)946-0111. Check out the Beaufort County Master Gardener Facebook page to see helpful gardening tips and see the plant of the week. Volunteers will be at the Washington County Extension office this weekend for the Bear Festival. If you are having an issue with your plants, stop by and ask a Master Gardener! Until then, Happy Gardening!