Saturday, September 8, 2012

Crazy Plants: Bracatinga

The bright yellow flowers of a bracatinga (Mimosa scabrella)
This fairly sizable plant is a relative of the far smaller sensitive plant, which responds to touch, making it an interesting plant for kids. The two species are in the same genus, though they look quite different. The bracatinga also appears to lack the characteristic movement of its cousin. Like just about every species in the genus Mimosa, the complex flowers look rather like puffballs. While many in the genus have pink or purplish flowers, the bracatinga has whitish to yellow flowers. The tree can grow to fifteen meters tall, sometimes more, and up fifty centimeters in diameter. A height of five meters can be reached in a little over a year. The plant can handle fairly acidic soil, but doesn't like too much water. Its leaves are nitrogen rich, and their decomposition after falling can be very good for the soil.

The bracatinga was a very important source of wood for the Brazilian railroads. Due to this use, and its rapid growth, the species is often planted as a source of fuel. It is also used as a shade tree and for ornamentation. It has also be used for making paper, fence posts, and, interestingly enough, as a food source for goats. The flowers can also be used for honey production.

Sources are Purdue UniversityWinrock International, World Agroforestry Centre, Encyclo, and Erika Styger, PhD. Image is from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

1 comment:

  1. Heck yeah a puffball tree! We had one of these in the front yard when I was young. I have never known what it's actual name was until now. Thanks for the information.

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