In the weeks since I moved to my new home, I’ve been trying to spend some time getting to know my new neighbors–and not just the human ones. My new backyard is filled with animals and plants that I never saw at my old place, even though it was just a few miles from here. I’ve been introduced to the brown thrasher, a relative of the mockingbird, and also horse nettle, the flowers of which look very much like the flowers of my potato plants. But the most interesting new species I’ve encountered so far is the tree on which happiness is said to grow.
If you’re from the southern United States, you may be familiar with the poufy pink blossoms of the mimosa tree, Albizzia julibrissin. The mimosa is not native here, but it was introduced from Asia and easily established itself due to its prolific production of seeds. It was once widely planted as an ornamental, but that’s discouraged now because of its tendency to become a “weed” tree.
If we’re going to have a weed tree, though, let it be this one! It has beautiful greenish gray bark, and its leaves and flowers lend a tropical air to its surroundings. What is more, it has medicinal uses. Mimosa bark has long been used by the Chinese as an anti-depressant. Boiled and steeped like a tea, one to two cups a day can supposedly heal what ails your spirit–hence the name “Happiness Tree.” Mimosa is also reported to ameliorate conditions as diverse as rheumatoid arthritis, nerve degeneration, and menorrhagia (heavy periods).
Note: Do not consume mimosa if you are taking other anti-depressant medications or if you are pregnant.