Let the Light In - Harvesting Mimosa Bark
In an effort to let more light into and around my house, I am cutting down several trees that are starting to encroach. Notably there is a semi-circle of Mimosa Trees that surround it. I immediately read this as a good sign -- a medicine I use right at my doorstep, literally cradling my home. They say that plant medicine will show up in your surroundings, that what you need most is there waiting for you... if you are paying attention.
Most would dismiss these trees as an invasive to be cut down right away. In Southern Appalachia, Mimosa (Albizia julibirissin, aka Silk Tree or Silky Acacia) can be found along highways, forest edges and anywhere land has been disturbed. Originally from China, it was first introduced to the states as an ornamental in 1745, no doubt due to its delightful pink puffball flowers, delicate leaves and beautiful, almost architectural limbs.
While I don't contest that the tree is invasive, it appears to be less so than tenacious plants such as kudzu or bittersweet. It certainly is easier to manage. You can prune it and effortlessly pull up the seedlings that pop up in surrounding areas.
However, the North Carolina Native Plant Society classifies it as a 'Rank 1 - Severe Threat' -- see their full list of invasives here. I am not advocating that people plant this tree in their yards -- please don't! But if you happen across it, know that you can help manage the population by harvesting the blossoms and bark, and preventing further spread of the plant population through proper management and/or removal.
The reality is that our landscape is constantly changing and invasive plants aren't going away. It is important to be informed. It is also worth investigating how these invasive plants can be used to our benefit as they are likely here to stay. I tread lightly on this subject as I have been attacked by native plant advocates for even suggesting that these plants have purpose in our ecosystem. However I remain in a position of exploration, curiosity and discernment -- continually questioning and investigating what we know to be true, especially when it comes to nature. I am equally interested in understanding how to protect and preserve the native plants of this region as I am learning of the uses and benefits of invasives. Our role within this tender, dynamic ecosystem is discussed in the collection of essays titled The Virtues of Ignorance, and more specifically in the fascinating though at times controversial book Invasive Plant Medicine.
Onto harvesting the medicinal inner bark of the mimosa tree. I don't intend to write much about the virtues of Mimosa in this post, other than to say it is incredibly powerful ally for levity, uplifting moods, confronting depression and grief, and soothing insomnia and anxiety -- there is a reason it is called the Collective Happiness Tree! The flowers can also be harvested to make flower essences and tinctures -- "they tend to have more uplifting and mood enhancing properties, whereas the bark is more sedative and anchors the heart and the spirit when there is grief, sorrow, insomnia and anxiety." - Jon Keyes
STEP 1: Gather a few branches, taking only as much as you think you will need. For this harvest, I ended up with about 12oz of dried bark from two lead branches taken from small seedling trees.
STEP 2: While the branches are green and fresh, remove the bark using a sharp knife. I prefer to use a Morakniv Woodcarving Knife due to its sharp, precise blade and comfortable handle. But truly any small utility or pocket knife will do the trick. An affordable all-purpose knife we recommend is the Opinel Garden Knife.
See the below video for a demonstration. Note that the medicinal properties are found in the inner bark (the cream colored underside of the outer bark.
STEP 3: Cut the strips of bark into smaller pieces (approximately 1/8 to 1/4 inch square) using scissors or pruners.
The below video demonstrates the cutting process.
STEP 4: Allow the bark to dry, giving it plenty of air circulation. Mimosa bark should dry quickly, within one to three days depending on your environment. Store in an air tight jar in a cool dark place. The next step would be to infuse the herbs to create a tincture. You can also take mimosa bark as a decocted herbal tea - simply allow the bark (a teaspoon per cup) to simmer in hot water for about 15-20 minutes - strain and enjoy!
This last video gives you a sense of how much bark I was able to harvest from two five-foot branches.
Hi! im wondering if there is a way you are supposed to clean the bark before using it in a tea I’m concerned about gifting this to someone and them getting sick or is it safe once dried
Hi, I harvested some Albizia bark in Oct of 2017. I made a wonderful tincture that is almost gone now. I still have some bark and I wonder how long it lasts? I think it slowly loses potency. I’m wondering if I might use double the amount of bark that I used in 2017? What would you do?
Thank you so much.
Hi, I am interested in harvesting some around my area… unfortunately it is end of January. Is the bark completely ineffective in Jan? Have you tried it at that time? What about using the root bark? Thanks ahead if you reply!
Hi, it looks like the outer gray part of the bark is being harvested, yet it says that the inner, underside is what you want? I want to harvest some that’s growing wild around my property. Thanks!
Natalie Pollard on
Oh I should also say that I harvested this bark in September (just took a while to find the time to create the post about it :)
Natalie Pollard on
The blog is new to us and we’re troubleshooting how to respond directly to you, but in the meantime hopefully you will check back here for my reply…
Thank you for asking that question. It is best to harvest medicinal barks in the autumn, or alternatively in the spring. Think of the bark as a conduit of energy between the roots below and the leaves above. In the autumn, the tree is slowing down and sending all of its energy down to the roots, and in the spring it is sending vital energy up to the leaves — making those times ideal for harvest. The depths of winter would be the least favorable, and the summer would be okay but not ideal.
You can certainly make a tincture of both the bark and flowers, though I prefer to use the blossoms to create a flower essence.
Hope that’s helpful. I will add this information to the post.
I’m also in NC- is this the right time of year to harvest the bark? Also, would it be best to make separate tinctures of the flowers and bark, or to combine the two parts in one tincture?