Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Common Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pudica) is a prickly herb or small shrub with very sensitive leaves that fold up when touched and at night.
  • It disperses by movement of animals or people.
  • It is considered troublesome in several crops.
  • It is abundant and aggressive in high rainfall areas.
  • It is suspected of poisoning cattle.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Common Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pudica) is a prickly long-lived herb or small shrub, sometimes becoming woody, with a creeping or sprawling habit. It usually only grows to 15-50 cm tall, but can reach up to 1 m in height when supported by other vegetation. The reddish-brown to purplish coloured stems tend to become woody with age. These stems are rounded, multi-branched, and armed with scattered curved prickles that are 2.5-5 mm long. The leaves are compound (made up of more than one leaflet), alternately arranged, and have leaf stalks that are 15-55 mm long. They consist of one or two pairs of branchlets that often have a covering of stiff, prickly bristles. Each of these branchlets is 5-8 cm long and has 10-25 pairs of small dark green leaflets arranged along them. These leaflets are elongated or oblong in shape and are 6-15 by 1-3 mm in size and have slightly hairy margins. The leaves are very sensitive and fold up when touched and or at night (Navie 2004).

The pink or purplish-pink coloured flowers are arranged in small, fluffy, globular or egg-shaped clusters that are 9-15 mm across. They resemble 'pom-poms' and are borne on bristly stalks that are 12-25 mm long. Individual flowers have four tiny petal lobes and four long stamens that give the flowers their fluffy appearance.

The oblong and flattened seed pods (fruit) are 10-25 x 3-6 mm in size and are clustered together at the end of stalks which emanate from the leaf forks. These pods contain 1-5 seeds and their edges are covered in stiff, almost prickly bristles. They are initially green in colour, but turn brown and break apart into one-seeded segments when mature. Seeds are light brown in colour, somewhat flattened 2.5-3 mm long, and have a finely textured surface (Navie 2004).

For further information and assistance with identification of Common Sensitive Plant contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour

Purple or Pink

Growth form (weed type/habit)

Shrub, Herb

Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Common Sensitive Plant is a weed of wetter coastal areas mainly in tropical and sub-tropical regions. It is mostly found in plantation crops, disturbed sites, pastures, waste areas, parks, lawns, gardens and along roadsides (Navie 2004).

Are there similar species?

Common Sensitive Plant is very similar to Mimosa (Mimosa pigra) and Giant Sensitive Plant (Mimosa diplotricha var. diplotricha), which both also produce pink globular flower clusters and have prickles. Mimosa is a large shrub with an upright growth habit that has large much-branched leaves with 6-16 pairs of branchlets. It produces relatively large pods 3-8 cm long that contain 14-26 one-seeded segments. Giant Sensitive Plant is an upright shrub or climbing plant that has much-branched leaves with 4-9 pairs of branchlets. It produces relatively small pods 1-3.5 cm long that contain 3-5 one-seeded segments.

Common Sensitive Plant is also relatively similar to the slightly weedy Native Sensitive Plant (Neptunia gracilis) which is, however, a relatively small plant, with a creeping growth habit, and has only one or two pairs of branchlets. Further, it does not have prickles along its stems, has yellow flowers, and its pods do not separate into one-seeded segments when mature (Navie 2004).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Agriculture: Common Sensitive Plant can be a weed in pastures and is suspected of poisoning cattle (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). The thorns can cause painful wounds and high plant populations coupled with the presence of thorns can restrict grazing in tropical pastures (Jordan 2007).

How does it spread?

Common Sensitive Plant disperses through movement of animals or people. The pods attach to wool, fur and clothing and can be transported large distances. The one seeded segments move easily in water. Seed is also moved in contaminated sand and gravel used in building and roadwork (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

What is its history in Australia?

Common Sensitive Plant was probably introduced to Australia as an ornamental plant (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Chemical control: Common Sensitive Plant can be controlled by chemical means (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). If plants are disturbed before spraying, the leaves will fold and the herbicide will be ineffective (Land Protection 2006). Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au 

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Common Sensitive Plant reproduces only by seed, which may germinate at any time of the year provided moisture is available. Most seed germinate in the wet season between November and March. Seedlings emerge as a single stem bearing seed leaves and the first true, once divided, compound leaf. Subsequent leaves are divided twice. Growth is rapid and the stem branches profusely as it develops. Flowering commences at about 3 months after germination and is then continuous in the warmer moister regions. Most seeds germinate readily but some remain dormant for long periods (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Common Sensitive Plant is a widely distributed species and is most common in the coastal areas of northern and central Queensland. It is also present in south-eastern Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory (Navie 2004).

Where does it originate?

Common Sensitive Plant originated in tropical Central and South America (Navie 2004).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Mimosa pudica

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Mimosa pudica var. hispida Brenan
  • Mimosa pudica var. tetrandra (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) DC.
  • Mimosa pudica var. unijuga (Walp. & Duchass.) Griseb.
  • Mimosa pudica f. hispidior Benth.
  • Mimosa tetrandra Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.
  • Mimosa unijuga Walp. & Duchass.

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Sensitive Plant, Sensitive Weed, Mimosa, Action Plant, Humble Plant, Shame Plant, Shame Weed, Shamebush, Shame Lady, Live-and-die, Touch-Me-Not

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