Agriculture/ Environment

Touch-me-not a shy environment enriching plant

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Touch-me-not a common name of Mimosa pudica is truly a shy plant. As soon as you touch this bushy herb, the leaves fold. Touch-me-not also was known as tickle me plant, shameful, humble plant, the lajjaboti or sensitive plant is a fun to play with in the bush. Touch it and see how it winds up.

Mimosa pudica or touch-me-not flower

The lovely touch-me-not flower

Is touch-me-not only a weed?

Most of us know touch-me-not as a weed that is a plant not needed in an area where a selected crop is cultivated. So, most farmers and gardeners cut them off as obnoxious weeds mostly to keep the walkway area clear. Or when dry, the thick bushes are potential fire hazards. Although it annually produces pretty pink flowers, Mimosa other than being bristly is thought of,  to shy away when touched by a foreign object. A plant is a weed when and at what place it is not wanted, but can add values to the environment if only we know. Let us learn more on touch-me-not.

What family of plants does touch-me-not belong to?

Mimosa pudica or touch-me-not is a legume belonging to the Fabaceae family. The plant originated in South and Central America but widespread all around the world. Mimosa grows in the eroded subsoil and under low light condition. This group of plant grows densely with branching and having prickles on its branches. Touch-me-not is a wind and insect pollinated plant. The common names ‘touch-me-not’ or ‘tickle me’ came from its habit of special plant movement on stimuli of touch.

What makes touch-me-not sleep instantly?

Kids love to move along a trail of mimosa and see it close its leaves, shrink and fall asleep. The phenomenon that makes touch-me-not shrivel itself on a trigger is known as ‘rapid plant movement’. Scientists have explained it to be due to a change of turgor pressure, resulting from the release of chemicals, nutrients, liquids. An imbalance of turgidity (osmotic flow of water from the lower level of solute to a higher level) makes the cells collapse and go to sleep. Scientists have explained this as a defensive mechanism of the plants to predators (insects in nature) who would not like to go for a dull uninviting meal.

The mechanism occurs at the expense of energy as touch-me-not has to make food make up the loss. So as a noble human being don’t disturb touch-me-not. Besides, this amazing species sleep at night when it is dark.

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Touch-me-not shrinking on touching

Benefit of touch-me-not to environment

Symbiotic nitrogen fixation is the prime function of touch-me-not. Leguminous crops and members of the Fabaceae family harbor rhizobium bacteria that live on the food secreted by the roots. As a result of the enzymatic action of the bacteria form nodules or round shaped bodies (as a result of symbiosis) where nitrogen of the atmosphere  is converted into available forms for the plant and the surrounding environment.  Around 60% of the nitrogen content in Mimosa atmospheric through reduction-oxidation process of N2 fixation. Mimosa Pudica accumulates high amounts of nitrogen in the plant’s leaves. The also contain a varied range of carbon and minerals. That is why touch-me-not plant roots are known as ‘roots of power.’

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Nitrogen-fixing nodules of touch-me-not

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Some medical benefits of touch-me-not

  • Heals wounds-ointments made from leaf extract heals wounds
  • Medicine for piles-fine paste made with leaves relieves burning and bleeding from piles.
  • Ethanol-induced extraction is used for ulcer by herbalists
  • Touch-me-not extracts have shown to be effective in controlling diarrhea when tested in rats
  • The root and leaf powder of touch-me-not controls diabetes.
  • Warm liquid of boiled leaves on external application has anti-inflammatory action
  • Mimosa pudica inhibits the activity of cobra venom.
  • Ethanol extracts work against fungal, microbial and viral infections.
  • Mimosa pudina possesses anti-fertility properties, so it is better to avoid when pregnancy is desired.

After all, touch-me-not is working for the food ecosystem of mankind. They surely don’t deserve to be tickled!

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