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Any member of the more than 450 species that make up the genus Mimosa in the pea family (Fabaceae), native to tropical and subtropical areas throughout both hemispheres. Most are herbaceous plants or undershrubs; some are woody climbers; a few are small trees. They are often prickly. Mimosas are widely cultivated for the beauty of their foliage and for their interesting response to light and mechanical stimuli: the leaves of some species droop in response to darkness and close up their leaflets when touched. The name comes from this mimicking of animal sensibility. The roots of some species are poisonous; others contain skin irritants. Many acacias are commonly but incorrectly called mimosas. See alsosensitive plant.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on mimosa, visit Britannica.com.