Sunday, December 07, 2008

Mimosa Pudica

No, haven't gone mad, though the title of my post may have you wondering if I doth protest too much in my opening line. Though endured what could be best described as a really intense - and interesting - week, am back to Accra and back to blogging. Didn't have access in the hinterlands of Mt Kenya and missed having my secondary - albeit virtual - cup of caffeine, which these days can best be summed up as trawling to see the musings of my fellow bloggers. Had some insightful discussions about the under utilization of local content in developing countries and it spurred me into thinking about yet another link I found between Ghana and Jamaica as it relates to the title of my post, the mimosa pudica.

As a child growing up and living in the country side, roaming outside wasn't just something to do when electricity was off - or complain about if you happened to use MTN. Ok, bad joke but couldn't resist. It was something you wanted to do because it was so much fun. From baking the most elaborate mud cakes, to catching butterflies and fireflies, and being chased by the occasionally ornery goat - or what ever other animal that chose to do so - picking flowers was also a good way to spend the time. I soon learned early enough that flowers that could be picked for this purpose should NOT include the ones my mother planted!

The mimosa pudica grows wild in the Jamaican countryside and can be found almost everywhere. Most of you may not know it by it's scientific name - neither did I until a few minutes ago - but yes, it's that plant that folds up when you touch it. Known worldwide by such names as ' sensitive plant', 'humble plant', 'sleeping plant' and 'touch me not' you can imagine my surprise when I found out the similarities in names for this plant between Jamaica and Ghana! In Jamaica we refer to it as 'shame old lady'. In an interesting reversal in explicitness, Ghanaians refer to this plant as ' shame old lady cover your p***y! Needless to say had a good laugh. Seems we are not the only ones with a sexual connotation to this though, as in Thailand it is called ' shut thighs'. Interesting, uh?

What is actually even more interesting is that this plant can actually be bought on e-bay for a mere USD 6! Found that out when I was googling to see what other names it was known by. Can you imagine? There is untold wealth just in your backyard. Literally that is. Seems quite a few people are in the market for emotional plants. One can't help but wonder why. Did find out too that it has medicinal purposes including promoting the regeneration of nerves and treating depression.

Think for now I will just be contented to smile each time I see the plant and remember the Ghanaian name. Or better, still touch the leaves, watch them fold up ever so gently and remember my childhood.

picture : wikipedia


Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Very interesting, Denise. Just wonder why (with all the greeness) she/it could not be a 'young lady'. :-)

Jacqueline Smith said...

A delightful post!

I especially enjoyed your description of living in the country. My mother used to beat for her flowers, you know. Eh-eh, don't play with her joseph's coats, her jervas, her hibiscus and thing sah, for dem something mek she backslide.

pablo said...

When I was in Ghana in June I was so thrilled to see Mimosa growing wild Id only ever seen it in a garden centre. One of my favourite plants .
I never knew it was called "shame old lady cover your pinny" :P

Denise said...

Your guess is as good as mine Nana Yaw. Then again are we just sticking by the accepted definition of 'old'? Old could be referring to experience and not age, couldn't it?

Denise said...

Hey Jackie, mi rememba di day mi use mi rula and play teacher inna mi modder flowas gawdin! Suffice to say the leaves on a couple of her precious plants got beaten for not answering their questions correctly! I was subsequently 'taught' a lesson I would not forget. Mine will backslide for her roses!

Denise said...

Hey Pablo, welcome! It was only after living here for two years that I found out the local 'name' and it was quite by chance. Was telling a Ghanaian friend of mine that we have it in Jamaica too and that was what we called it. Nothing prepared me (so to speak) for her rejoinder - needless to say we had a good laugh.

Jacqueline Smith said...

Did she call all her flowers 'roses'? That's another thing my mother's generation do. I've linked to yoour Christmas post from a up a network of Caribbean bloggers that I'm just setting up.

Island Girl said...

Hi Denese,
I could not help laughing out loud when I read about the name that the Ghanains have for the "shame old lady" plant.

I spent part of my early years in Manchester and I remember the mimosa from my childhood. I remember how we use to "harass" it - touching it, watching it fold and unfold and touching it quickly again just as it unfolded.

A couple years ago as I was browsing through one of or high school science textbooks I saw a photo of said plant under the topic of "sensitivity in plants". I tried describing it to a group of students but they hadn't a clue as to what I was talking about. It struck me then that here was this amazing plant that urban/city kids were not aware of.

Imagine my delight when I discovered said plants growing abundantly on our two farms in St. Thomas. When i saw them I could not resist engaging in my childhood teasing. My son was so fascinted with touching them and seeing how they responded to his touch. We actually uprooted and collected some seeds with the intention of starting our own patch in our garden in Kingston, but they got lost in the trip back home.

I am not surprised that you saw them for sale on ebay. About a years ago I was rummaging through some packets of vegetable and flower seedlings when, what did I come upon! Two packets of mimosa of course!

Try as I may, I could not get them to germinate.

Denise said...

Hi Jackie, saw the link this morning and I was chuffed. Thanks! Did forget to reminisce about Grand Market night, but yes, another time.

It's a really great idea though to set up the site. For those of us bloggers living in Accra we try to meet once a month, just to have some face to face time, meet the persons behind the various blogs, as well as share tips and suggestions. We also try to blog collectively on at least one topic per month hence the 'view out of Ghana' in the title of some of the posts. This month's topic was Christmas and last month's topic was football.

Hmm, can never tell what the site may just morph into - and hey, do encourage some of the Jamaican writers to participate in the annual literary festival Calabash (if it still happens) - your self included of course!

Denise said...

Hi Island Girl, welcome to the blog and thanks for stopping by.
Funny how when we were growing up these 'bushes' were a nuisance and now are for sale. Curious - do they flower? Can't remember ever seeing them flowering.

Will have a look-see and see what I can find out about my surname and post on your blog.

Island Girl said...

Hi Denese, if you look closely at the photo on your blog you will see that the mimosa is in bloom.However if you go to th following link you will see one that has lovely blooms.

Denise said...

Hi Island Girl, hmm, thought that was some kind of pod/fruit or something. Thanks for the heads up and the link.

Anonymous said...

This was my favorite plant when I went to Jamaica. Here in the USA it is more commonly known as the TickleMe Plant because it really moves fast when you Tickle It!
The leaves instantly close and even the branches droop when tickled. I was so happy to find the TickleMe Plant Greenhouse on line. It contains everything to grow your own TickleMe Plant. Ever time I tickle the leaves and watch them move I long to go back to Jamaica. If you want to grow your own TickleMe Plant indoors go to

iShane said...

Hey Denise. I came across your blog when I was looking up the official name for Shame Old Lady too. I find it interesting that there are some many names for it...but I find it hilarious that they call it that in Ghana.

I was in Jamaica last week and took some great pics and video of the plant. I was starting some research on my family tree and all signs seems to point to Ghana so far.

I may be Accra bound one day. If that be the case, I can't wait!

Anonymous said...

Great post, I love this plant! Better know in the USA as the TickleMe Plant You can grow this plant as a house plant year round. My students love growing them