Canopy Family Panama

Sensitive Plant
Mimosa pudica

Mimosa pudica Panama
Photo by Jenn Sinasac

 

The Sensitive Plant is a creeping herb in the Fabaceae family. It has long, prickly stems that can grow to 1.5 meters in length, and has compound, bipinnate leaves with 10-26 leaflets. The globular, pale pink flowers arise from the leaf axils. The fruits are clusters of 2-8 pods, 1-2 cm long, containing pale brown seeds with hard seed coats.

The Sensitive Plant is one of the more “entertaining” and memorable plants in a tropical forest—it demonstrates “rapid plant movement,” in which the leaves fold inward and stems droop when touched or disturbed by warming, blowing or shaking. This behavior is known as seismonasty. It is believed to aid in predator protection from harmful herbivores. The leaves reopen shortly after the disturbance has passed. It grows in shady areas, forests, edges and roadsides, and is pollinated by wind and insects. 

The Sensitive Plant is native to Central and South America, and is now distributed throughout the tropics worldwide; it is considered invasive in some areas where it has been introduced. It is common in the forests and roadsides around the Canopy Family lodges.   

Did you know? The Latin name “pudica” means “shy,” “bashful” or “shrinking.” An apt name.

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