Thursday, March 19th, 2009...12:00 am

The Silk Tree – Albizia Julibrissin

Photo taken by pizzodisevo

When TheGardenLady bought her property in the 1970s, one of the trees on the grounds was the tree Albizia julibrissin commonly called the Silk tree, Mimosa tree or Silky acacia. Who can resist the lovely feathery pink flowers? Butterflies, bees and birds are attracted to the flowers that seem to bloom almost all summer on the 20 to 30 ft tall trees.

The tree is not native to the US; it is from Asia and Africa. It was brought to the US as an ornamental tree in 1745 and is still sold in some plant nurseries. It grows in Zones 6 through Zone 9 with reports of its living in Zone 5 (though the coolness of this zone makes it a struggle to keep alive ).

The Silk tree likes acidic soil but will grow in alkaline soil. It loves the sun. It will tolerate droughts.  Because it is so easy to grow in the warm zones, it has escaped gardens and is self seeding its way throughout many warmer states in the US especially along banks of rivers and streams as my mimosa tree was, along roadsides and in disturbed open areas as well as along forest edges. With its ability to reproduce vigorously, either vegetatively from the root or from the seeds, it has become one of the most invasive of plants in many states. One tree can reputedly produce over two hundred thousand seeds each year and because seeds can lie dormant years before reseeding (one study showed that 90% of
the seeds were viable after 5 years) as delighted as TheGardenLady was to have had the tree, when it died a few years ago because the Silk tree or Mimosa is considered an invasive tree. TheGardenLady was not about to buy a new Silk tree to replace her old tree.

Photo taken by yoshiko314

Two things seem to be the major causes of death of the Silk tree: one is that the tree is not long lived – it lasts about 20 years – and the other is the Mimosa Vascular Wilt that has destroyed many Silk trees. TheGardenLady believes her tree died of natural old age.

A few years had elapsed with no Silk tree decorating TheGardenLady’s grounds. Then last year, about 10 feet from where the original tree had been, a new Albizia julibrissin started growing. TheGardenLady believes that it was from a dormant seed. This GardenLady welcomes it back.

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2 Comments

  • jenee compagnone
    March 31st, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Our propetry is lined with ten, 20 year old silk trees. winter storm broke one at base, another ones largest branch broke, splitting the tree trunk nearly in half, all the way to the ground. My husband thinks the tree will live, I doubt it. The trees are at least 20-25 ft. tall. Any suggestions how it ccould be saved. also we are ordering another to replace the one that is gone, not sure what to do about the roots on missing tree. any help would be appreciated. We live in Calif. at 1500 ft elevation
    Thank you for your imput
    Jenee

  • @jenee – While Albizia julibrissin is a hearty variety, I wouldn’t expect the entire tree to survive an ordeal such as that; however, don’t be surprised if new growth occurs off the base of the tree, should you be willing to wait for a new growth cycle. Also, 20 years is the long range of the tree’s life, so I would have expected them to die off soon anyways (10-20 year lifespan); try looking for nearby saplings, as the Albizia julibrissin spreads quite easily.

    For a split trunk, it depends on how much damage was done; if minor, binding the trunk can help repair, but from the sounds of it, it will probably not survive. Here’s a good place for more information on that subject:
    http://www.arborday.org/media/stormrecovery/2_canthesetreesbesaved.cfm

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