Silk tree leaves are bipinnately compound.

Resiliency is typically an attribute. It is how silk tree, Albizia julibrissin, adapts to various urban landscapes. Unfortunately, it is also how it naturalized within a few ecosystems of North America. It grows easily from seed, whether or not it is appropriate to where it does so. Many naturalized specimens somehow find good situations in which to grow though.

With good exposure, most mature silk trees develop rather low but broad canopies. They have potential to grow taller than forty feet, but if not competing with taller trees, may stay half as tall. Their arching limbs flare elegantly outward in low mounding form. Their finely textured foliage provides appealingly uniform shade that is neither too dark nor too light.

The lacy and bipinnately compound leaves of silk tree are between half a foot and a foot long. Each leaf divides into as many as a dozen pairs of pinnae (leaflets). These pinnae divide into about twice as many pairs of pinnulae (leaflets of leaflets). Such minute foliar components disintegrate during autumn defoliation, and can disappear into groundcover.

The pink and fluffy summer bloom can actually be messier than the deciduous foliage. It does not disintegrate as it falls, so may accumulate on top of vegetation below. Cultivars generally bloom with richer pink color, although at least one blooms with white. ‘Summer Chocolate’ exhibits richly bronzed foliage that contrasts strikingly with pastel pink bloom.


21 thoughts on “Silk Tree

      1. Mimosas don’t like our winters much and usually only live maybe 25 years. Then something happens, a disease or general break down, and the trunks split and limbs begin to fail. Some areas around here didn’t have as many bees the last several years, and they come to my mimosa out back. I grow some other things that attract a lot of bees and butterflies. We need our pollinators.

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      2. Well now you made me curious about how the temps there are different than here. Looks like their winters don’t get as cold and their cold doesn’t last as long as here. I’d say they are probably naturalized here too cos they’re everywhere and they’re prolific at making seeds and there are lots of little trees to pull up every spring. But they just don’t live long.

        You might be interested in a story. There was a mimosa in my front yard many years ago, got old, split and I had it removed. Alongside my house on the neighbor’s side of the property line was a nasty hedge that got out of control. Finally they had it removed. Bare ground exposed. At that point it had been about 10 years since my mimosa tree was removed, but suddenly on the bare ground where the hedge had been, zillions of little mimosa trees sprouted up. Those seeds lay dormant in the dark under the thick hedge and waited……until there was sun and a possibility to grow. It was amazing. Nature never ceases to amaze me.

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      3. I find it difficult to dislike mimosa, even though I know that it can be invasive. It is just too nice of a tree. Several lived in the original landscape of the now abandoned City Hall of San Jose. Rather than providing a few dark shadows over the motorcourt and courtyard, the several trees shaded a large area evenly but lightly enough for other plants to live below them. Choisya ternata happened to live there, perhaps because it was trendy at the time of construction. At ground level, the trees make a low but seemingly lofty canopy. The trunks and arching limbs somehow looked ‘lofty’. From the third and fourth floor, the collective canopy looked like a slightly hilly meadow. It was only slightly lumpy, but otherwise looked like a meadow that would be a good place for a picnic. It was so pretty, back when horticulture was taken seriously. I believe that whomever selected the trees knew what he or she was doing. Unfortunately, the landscape was ruined over the years, with the addition of random London plane and crape myrtle. I do not know what will happen to that formerly excellent building now.

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      4. That sounds like it would have been so pretty to see from above. And interesting for your observation to think it might have been intentional. Maybe they’ll do something good with the building.

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      5. San Jose is incredibly wasteful. The building was botched from the beginning. Like some buildings of the time, it was designed to be added onto. The first portion was a third of a circular building. As more office space became necessary, another third was to be added on. The final third would have enclosed the Rose Garden, which was really more like a small park in the middle. However, just prior to construction, someone got the bright idea of turning the building around, so that each end of it face the street, and addition as planned was impossible. The Annex that was added on later was like a completely separate and weird building. The windows facing into the curve faces south instead of north, so got much hotter than planned, and the cooling system was not designed for that. The koi pond is both within the atrium and the courtyard, so passes under large windows in the lobby, but also gets too hot. The koi were gifts from Japan, along with the flowering cherry trees that were street trees in Japantown and Kelley Park. The koi were a bit too happy there, so another pond was built for them in Kelly Park, but they were a bit too happy there as well. Supposedly those koi are the ancestors of what are now ‘California koi’, which are less expensive than Japanese koi. The original koi pond is now gone and the landscape is ruined, but the old CIty Hall is still an excellent building that should be preserved. To this day, no one knows why San Jose needed a new City Hall.

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      6. Dysfunction is lucrative. The Convention Center was a weird building when it was new, but people were forced to accept it. Now that it is weird classically 80’s architecture, and people are really liking it, it might get replaced, along with the Doctor Martin Luther King Junior Library that was built only in about 1979. It seems so crazy that these perfectly good buildings should be demolished! It happens all the time though. Los Angeles does the same. Several museums that were build on Wilshire Boulevard while Brent and I were in school in the 1980s are now gone.

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      7. The New City Hall would have been expensive regardless, . . . and somehow exceeded its budget by a HUGE margin; and it was all so unnecessary. Yet, San Jose is always broke.

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      8. Those involved know, but do not care. They are just there to exploit the dysfunction. I never wrote an article about how Brent exposed the rustling of mature Canary Island date palms from the embankment of the Santa Monica Freeway (, but the rustling was done by those who were in positions that allowed them to get away with it. They continue to do it in other neighborhoods, even after the exposure.

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