You won't believe what this plant does when you touch it.

By Jenny Krane

We all know that plants can do amazing things—after all, they feed us, purify the air, and have countless other benefits. Plants also have incredible ways of protecting themselves. Think of Venus flytrap, which uses tiny hairs to trigger the plant to close on insects. Some plants have thorns to deter predators, while others release poisonous chemicals. The sensitive plant has its own insane way of protecting itself and makes us question: Do plants have feelings, too?

Sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica) is also known as sleepy plant, touch-me-not, shame plant, or humble plant—all of which reference its natural defense mechanism. When touched, the leaves quickly close and the stems start to droop. This steers animals away, as they can be startled by the sudden movement or even think that the plant is dead. The leaves also close and droop in the dark and then reopen during the day.

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Mimosa pudica is native to South and Central America and grows in tropical and warm areas. These shy plants typically stay under two feet tall and have round, fuzzy-looking pink or purple blooms that appear in the summer months. They grow best in full sun and high humidity, which is why you'll find often find them in garden conservatories.

Many greenhouses and botanical centers like to grow sensitive plants as a curiosity, and they have even been seen in therapeutic gardens and children's gardens as a sensory experience. Their sudden response to touch is crazy to watch, and don't worry—lightly touching the leaves won't hurt the plant. They may be the perfect way to show your kiddos just how cool plants are.

Since they're native to tropical areas, you probably won't find sensitive plants at your local nursery. However, you can still grow them from seed if you live in an area with hot, humid weather. If you're attempting to grow it indoors, make sure to keep the soil moist (but not soggy) and keep them in temperatures above 60 degrees F. Your indoor sensitive plant may never bloom, but the leaves will still open and close—which is the best part, right?


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