Mimosa tree, Albizia julibrissin, is in bloom with its stunning flowers right now, which are very delicate, with fan-like clusters of stamens that look like feathery magenta hairs. They are intoxicatingly fragrant, but not psychoactive, unlike its relative by a similar name, the tropical Mimosa tenuiflora, which is used in powerfully entheogenic ayahuasca brews.
Albizia and Mimosa are considered to be different genuses, even though they do have some resemblances, particularly in the appearance of the leaves, which are pinnately twice-compound, and they are both in the legume family and the Mimosoideae subfamily.
Though the seed pods look like pea pods a bit, they’re not regarded as edible in any plant guides I’ve seen, though the flowers and leaves are considered to be. I tested it tonight while walking the dog. I tried to eat both the wispy flowers and the leaves, and I will tell you that if I wrote a field guide, I would classify them under “starvation food only.” Given how fine the flowers are and how they seem to collapse and shrivel instantly when picked, it’s like eating a feather. The leaves are very dry and a little bit astringent and a little bit sour/tart, and otherwise taste like grass. Not food in my book!
Chinese herbalists tincture Albizia flowers and bark as a remedy for mild depression and anxiety, as well as for insomnia, poor memory, irritability, and “angry feelings due to constrained emotions,” all of which are considered to be caused by imbalances in the heart and liver meridians. You can read more about the traditional Chinese use of this plant in my teacher Michael Tierra’s article here. I have also heard Ayurvedic herbalist Candis Cantin talk about using a tincture of Albizia as a stress-relief medicine.
On Saturday night, the full moon, I decided to meditate on this plant with some friends to get to know it a bit better. We all found it to be a challenging plant to tap into, unlike most that we have sat with. I felt its essence had a quality of being graceful, ethereal and ephemeral, mirroring its wispy flowers and its leaves, which had closed tightly at nightfall and would not let us open them no matter how we tried to pry them apart. At first we sat indoors holding the leaves and flowers in our hands as we meditated, but later we decided to go outside and touch the bark and experience it in person to see if we could perceive a little more. Even then we found its energy fairly subtle and even a bit reticent — but we got a stronger sense of it when one person in the group reminded us to put all of our awareness into the heart space and quiet the mind, which turned up the volume, as it always does. This woman, who had never heard about this plant before that evening and only happened to join us because she is interested in meditation, reported that she kept getting images of bees and hummingbirds. I didn’t think a plant with a flower like that would have much nectar, so I doubted her impression, but was surprised to learn later in some web research that it does in fact attract both! Other people present mentioned they experienced a physical sensation of blood flowing in their bodies. I hadn’t experienced myself and didn’t recall that it was a circulation medicine, but I discovered later that they were right on that count, too!
When I revisited Michael Tierra’s article this evening, I saw that he had written: “…The bark is regarded as one of the most important herbs for the treatment of external trauma and injuries. It promotes blood circulation, reduces pain and swelling, promotes the regeneration of flesh and facilitates the healing of bone fractures.”
It’s amazing how much information the plants will reveal to us when we make it a point to listen with open minds and hearts! If you would like to learn more about plants as beings, and experience a guided meditation, then you’d enjoy my powerful MP3 class, “Connecting with Plant Spirits,” an extension of my work doing Reiki energy healing with plant spirits in person and via distance. For more about that, click here.
Private Urban & Wilderness Hikes: Right now is an ideal time to learn how to identify wild plants on a private wild plant hike because the forests and urban neighborhoods are bursting with fruit and flowers, making for a tasty and visually pleasing excursion. When you join me for a jaunt in my northeast Portland ‘hood within the next few weeks, you’ll get to sample figs, apples, pears, currants, blackberries, raspberries and hazelnuts — in addition to the medicinal herbs that live here — and in the wilderness areas you could taste huckleberries, Oregon grape, salmon berry, thimbleberry, elder, and more! For more info and to book an adventure with me, click here.