Silk Tree

Albizia julibrissin, or more commonly known as the Silk Tree, the Persian silk tree, pink silk tree, or mimosa tree, is a species of tree in the family Fabaceae, native to southwestern and eastern Asia. The genus is named after the Italian nobleman Filippo degli Albizzi, who introduced it to Europe in the mid-18th century. It is sometimes incorrectly spelled Albizzia. The specific epithet julibrissin is a corruption of the Persian word gul-i abrisham, which means "silk flower" (from gul "flower" + abrisham "silk"). Albizia julibrissin was described by Antonio Durazzini. John Gilbert Baker used the same scientific name to refer to Prain's Albizia kalkora, the Mimosa kalkora of William Roxburgh. It is extraordinarily adaptable and does very well growing in disturbed soil and roadsides. Despite its invasive tendencies, the silk tree is beautiful and is very attractive to pollinators, including hummingbirds.



Albizia julibrissin is a small deciduous tree with a broad crown of level or arching branches. Its bark is dark greenish grey, becoming vertically striped with age. Its leaves are large and frond-like: They are bipinnate, divided into 6–12 pairs of pinnae, each with 20–30 pairs of leaflets. Individual leaflets are oblong, 1–1.5 cm (0.4–0.6 in) long and 2–4 cm (0.8–1.6 in) broad. The true leaves are 20–45 cm (8–18 in) long and 12–25 cm (5–10 in) broad. The flowers bloom throughout the summer in dense inflorescences, which resemble starbursts of pink silky threads. The true flowers have small calyx and corolla (except the central ones), with a tight cluster of prominent stamens, 2–3 cm long and white or pink with a white base. They have been observed to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Its fruit is a flat brown pod 10–20 cm (4–8 in) long and 2–2.5 cm (0.8–1.0 in) broad, containing several seeds inside.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

10 - 50 feet


Width-Circumference (Avg)

20 - 50 feet


Approximate pH

3.5 - 8.5


Varieties of Silk Tree


Albizia julibrissin ˈOmbrellaˈ: This commercial variety is quite similar to the species, but it is very vigorous and tolerates temperatures of -15 °C for a short time. The growth of ˈOmbrellaˈ is umbrella-shaped and reaches a height of about 8 to 10 m.



Albizia julibrissin ˈErnest Wilsonˈ: The variety ˈErnest Wilsonˈ differs from the species mainly in its much more pronounced frost hardiness. It can withstand temperatures down to about -23 °C. Due to the somewhat stocky growth with a height of 4 to 5 m, the shape is more rounded. It has pink and white flowers.



Albizia julibrissin ˈSummer Chocolateˈ: With its unusual foliage, this commercial variety is very striking. The leaves, which are fresh green when they first appear, later turn red to chocolate brown and finally turn golden yellow in the fall. The Persian silk tree ˈSummer Chocolateˈ reaches a height of about 2 to 4 m and is hardy to about -17 °C.



Albizia julibrissin ˈPendulaˈ: The peculiarity of this variety lies in the arching overhanging shoots with pink flowers. It can reach a height of up to 7 m and can withstand temperatures down to about -17 °C.


Albizia julibrissin ˈEvey’s Prideˈ: The deep brown-wine red foliage of this variety adds exciting colour accents to any garden. It also grows up to 7 m high and bears bright pink flowers. Here, too, the winter hardiness is about -17 °C.



Albizia julibrissin ˈRoseaˈ: It is somewhat more frost hardy. It offers bright pink blooms. This variety is rather rare in the trade in our part of the world.



Albizia julibrissin ˈAlbaˈ: It has pristine white flowers.


Planting Silk Tree


Good drainage is essential when planting the silk tree. Put some sand at the bottom of the planting hole in the garden; a layer of expanded clay is recommended for potting. The root ball should have enough space. The soil must be pressed firmly and the silk tree watered thoroughly.


Growing Silk Tree


How to Grow Silk Tree From Seed


Silk trees love to spread seeds, so harvesting them is not difficult. Collect seeds in the fall and store them in a cool, dry place until spring. For the best results, scrape the seed gently with a file or rasp until the hard outer coating is breached ever-so-slightly. Then place the seeds in an insulated container and pour hot, almost boiling water, over the seeds. Seal the container and allow them to sit in the hot water for 24 hours.


Dry the seeds and gently press them into the middle of a 3-inch pot filled with compost and perlite in equal amounts. Place the seed one inch deep. Place the pots outside, preferably against a shady, south-facing wall. Keep the compost mixture moist. Seeds can take anywhere from seven days to several months to germinate.


Silk Tree Care


A notorious spreader, the seeds of the A. julibrissin travel and grow in disturbed areas like roadsides, woodland edges, and open fields, so it can be difficult to control without careful measures. Other than the fact that it can get a bit untidy and needs to be planted a distance from structures due to weak wood that breaks easily under ice load and high winds, there is no simpler tree to grow once it gets going. The silk tree is a very hardy species tolerant of a wide range of soil and moisture conditions, bolstered by its roots’ ability to fix nitrogen.


Light


The tree tolerates partial shade but is generally considered intolerant of shade. A. julibrissin will thrive in full sunlight, promoting fuller foliage and abundant flowering.


Soil


The silk tree tolerates a wide range of soil conditions and is even adapted to poor varieties. The tree’s nitrogen-fixing properties allow it to grow well in soils where other plants would suffer.


It can also handle acidic to moderately alkaline soil pH with ease and is a good choice for landscapes that need solutions for high alkaline areas.


Water


The tree’s habit of naturalizing in wet to dry sites shows that A. julibrissin is adaptable regarding moisture conditions. Giving a young tree that is freshly planted a thorough weekly soaking is essential until the roots have been established. After the first season, no supplemental watering should be needed.


Temperature and Humidity


Though it thrives in the higher temperatures of the southern USDA Zones, the silk tree is tolerant of low temperatures. Young plants, however, are frost tender and will not survive hard winters.


Fertilizer


The silk tree’s profuse growth shows that supplemental feeding is not needed. Compost added at the tree base should be sufficient to replenish nutrients.


Pruning and Propagating Silk Tree


Pruning


Prune the tree in fall or winter during its dormant period. If you prune early in the tree's life, you can narrow it to a central trunk, though some prefer to allow it to have several smaller trunks. Regardless of that choice, it's best to prune the top of the tree to a flat shape, then prune back the branches to five or six buds on each. Remove dead, diseased, or weak limbs at any time during the year.


Propagating Silk Tree


Silk tree is easily propagated through seed or cuttings. To propagate through cuttings, choose a 6-inch healthy stem in late spring. Choose a branch that has not yet bloomed. Remove all but the top two or three leaves, dip the stem into water, and then into rooting hormone. Immediately place the cutting into a 4-inch pot that has been filled with high-quality potting soil. Place the pot in a plastic bag, then set it in an area of sunny yet indirect light, with a temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the soil moist. Expect roots to grow in three to four weeks.


Potting and Repotting Silk Tree


When starting as seedlings, it's fine to keep the silk tree in its container until it begins to show roots through the drainage holes. At that point, it's time to transplant the tree to its permanent home in your landscape. When doing this, carefully place them in soil that has been amended with the same type of compost they began growing in.


Overwintering


This tree can tolerate temperatures down to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit but does much better in areas where the winters aren't as harsh. No matter the zone, make sure your silk tree is planted in full sun and in an area where it is protected from strong winter winds.


Pests and Diseases


Pests


A variety of insects will feel quite at home in the silk tree, including soft-bodied creatures like mites. Mimosa webworms and cottony cushion scale are also attracted to this tree. Look into insecticidal treatments to help eliminate them.


Diseases


Few diseases are a problem on this tree except for mimosa wilt, also known as fusarium wilt, caused by a soil-borne fungus (Fusarium oxysporum f. perniciosum). This disease infiltrates the water-conducting tissues and blocks the flow of sugars, water and nutrients, quickly killing the tree.


Fusarium Wilt: The disease is found from New York and southward, as well as in Arkansas, California and Louisiana. Fusarium wilt is caused by a fungus known as fusarium oxysporum forma specialis perniciosum. The fungus will clog the vascular system tissue and interfere with sap movement. Once the tree is attacked by fusarium wilt, the disease moves quickly through its system and the tree dies rapidly.


Common Problems With Silk Tree


Silk tree is sometimes plagued by Mimosa wilt, a fungus that attacks the vascular system of the tree. Unfortunately, most trees with this problem die within a year, and it can spread to other plants in the vicinity. If your silk tree is infected, immediately remove it from the landscape.


Benefits of Silk Tree


Burn care


The Mimosa plant proved to be a key remedy for over 5,000 burn victims in the San Juanico Disaster of 1984. After a petroleum gas explosion occurred in Mexico, officials turned to this plant as a healing salve for the wounded.


Helps with Wounds


For more than 1000 years. The Mayans revered the Mimosa tree as a powerful support herb for external lesions and wounds. Procedures were created by roasting the bark and creating a poultice for the skin wound. The powdered bark is also an excellent cleanser against germs. In trauma injuries, it can protect protruding bones and aids in the restoration of damaged tissue.


Colds and Cough


Mimosa bark decoctions can aid in relieving the indications of upper respiratory ailments and cough.


Blood Coagulant


Related to these wound applications, powdered Mimosa bark holds extremely high amounts of antioxidant and astringent tannins. These qualities stop bleeding, reduce the chances of infection, and aid the skin in the formation of healthy tissue.


Balances Irritation


Mimosa bark and leaves have the ability to reduce redness and soothe discomfort. This is thought to be due to three forms of steroids present in the bark. Studies show that the bark powder has an anesthesia-like effect on the skin, and can reduce pain for up to three hours when applied topically. What is more, the bark aids in skin regeneration.


Oral Discomfort Reliever


Traditionally, a tea made from the leaves of the Mimosa tree was used to offer relief for toothache soreness.


Skin Disorders


Mimosa bark is helpful for some skin conditions. It has, as of late, become a popular ingredient in hair and skin products as it may stimulate the generation of skin elastin and collagen. This may be related to its high flavonoid and hyaluronic acid content, chemical compounds responsible for cell regeneration in skin.


Immune Booster


Mimosa is full of vital plant micronutrients, including copper, iron, zinc, manganese and magnesium. These nutrients promote cell health and a strong immune system.


Uses

  • The sweet-scented flowers are a good nectar source for honeybees and butterflies. In Central America, the thornbug (Umbonia spinosa) prefer its branches for mating and overwintering.

  • There is conflicting information on the toxicity of pods and seeds to humans and animals; some parts of the plant may contain neurotoxin.

  • Silk tree wood may be used to make furniture.

  • Pink silk tree can be used to treat the effects of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) by rubbing the leaves in hand and then applying to the rash area. Relief is almost instantaneous.

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