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Prairie Mimosa Desmanthus illinoensis


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Prairie Mimosa - flower and leaf
credit: Mary PK Burns/CCSA

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Alternate name: Prairie Bundleflower, llinois Bundleflower

Family: Fabaceae, Pea view all from this family

Description An erect, somewhat weedy plant with ball-like clusters of small, whitish or greenish flowers on tall stalks rising in axils of compound leaves.
Habit: native perennial subshrub or herb; 1-several stems, strongly ribbed, erect.
Height: 1-5 ft (0.3-1.5 m).
Leaf: alternate, twice-pinnate, to 4 in (10 cm) long; 6-12 pairs of feathery pinnae, 0.5-1.5 in (1.5-4 cm) long; leaflets, very small, linear, to 0.2 in (5 mm) long and 0.05 in (1 mm) wide, folding when touched or in strong light.
Flower: tiny, white to greenish-white, 5-parted, 5 projecting yellow stamens; in spherical cluster, 0.5 in (12 mm) diameter, of 30-50 flowerheads, held in leaf axil.
Fruit: small leathery pod, flat, twisted, to 1 in (25 mm) long, 0.25 in (6 mm) wide; in round cluster resembling a flower.

Flower May to September.

Flower June - August

Habitat Prairies, open slopes, thickets, glades, pastures, shorelines, railways, roadsides; also cultivated as an ornamental.

Range Pennsylvania south to Florida, west to New Mexico and Colorado, northeast to North Dakota, southeast to Wisconsin and Indiana; also in Utah and Nevada; not reported in West Virginia.

Discussion Also called Illinois mimosa, Illinois bundleflower, prairie bundleflower, bundleflower, prickleweed, Illinois desmanthus. Considered weedy or invasive in some areas.

The somewhat similar Prairie Acacia (Acacia augustissima) has fruit 1 1/2-3 (4-8 cm) long. Like many fellow members of the pea family, Prairie Mimosa and Prairie Acacia are nutritious range plants, high in protein.

Comments Cultivated for garden use because of its unique seedhead and foliage. This aggressive species is readily eaten by all classes of livestock & is considered an important native legume. It is frequently used in range revegetation programs. Like other members of the pea family, this plant requires the presense of microorganisms which inhabit nodules on the plant's root system and produce nitrogen compounds necessary for the plant's survival. Soil/seed inoculum is available at most native plant nurseries.

Exposure Preference Sun to partial sun.

Native Distribution South Carolina to Alabama, Texas & e. Colorado, n. to Illinois, s.w. Minnesota & North Dakota

Site Preference Open, wooded slopes; rocky prairies; stream banks; roadsides; waste places

Soil Preference Various soils.

Wildlife Value Seeds are desirable for wild birds. The plant is considered a nutritious and palatable browse for wildlife.