Several large, beautiful mimosa trees grew in the neighborhood of my childhood. I remember once playing under the ferny leaves of one, leaning against the smooth, gray bark, merrily chattering with my best friend Karen about one day. One day we would have our own house, and though our dreams weren't yet clear enough to say garden, in the yard would be a beautiful mimosa tree just like that one.
It was a rude awakening to later find out that, in spite of its pleasing qualities, mimosa (Albiza julibrissin) is no longer considered a lovely ornamental, but an invasive exotic. Throughout the sandhills and coastal plain of North Carolina, mimosas edge every field of crops and drop very fertile seeds by the thousands into the disturbed ground. They probably show up in your garden, as they do mine.
Yet, I can't say I instantly disdained the plant when I heard the news—it is still disappointing—but I no longer aspire to having one in my yard; I remove the occasional seedlings that pop up. There are several native trees that are nice substitutes for mimosa—redbud, fringetree, buckeye—so I'll plant those instead. And, I'll appreciate the native wildlife those trees support.
But when I am out with my dog and he pulls me past a mimosa branch in full bloom, I'm still going to stop and admire the light fragrance, and remember how I would brush my baby son's cheek with the silky flowers and watch his eyes close.