Tuesday, June 11, 2013

well traveled

Although many people hate this tree because it is not native to North America, I can think of few other transplants with a more rich history than the South's mimosa or "silk tree."

Its botanical name, Albizia julibrissin, is a reflection of that storied past. Native to southern and eastern Asia, from Iran east to China and Korea, the tree was introduced to Europe in the mid-1700s by Italian nobleman Filippo del Albizzi. The plant's generic name honors his contribution. The specific name julibrissin is a corruption of the Persian word "gul-i abrisham," which means "silk flower"

Mimosas (along with ginkgos and crape myrtles) were first introduced into the United States in Charleston, South Carolina in 1745 by French plantsman André Michaux, who was in the New World to collect plants for his benefactor France's King Louis VI. The king, who lost his head in the French Revolution, sent the trees as gifts to the colonies.

Known in some locales as the Persian silk tree, mimosas did quite well, spreading across the south.

So from the former Persian Empire to Europe with the help of an Italian, and from Paris to Charleston with the help of a Frenchman and a soon to be dethroned monarch, it’s a living, breathing travelogue, but you don't have to travel nearly that far to enjoy their pink powder puff blossoms. They are in bloom now around the Tennessee Valley.

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