Friday, June 27, 2008

touch me not

One of the best times we had when we were children was to run in the school compound and make a lot of noise. We liked to play catch and we could scream with delight.

And when we were tired we would go and tease the "touch me nots".

Our science teacher Mr. Tiong had taught us about mimosa and how sensitve the leaves were. So we incorporated the term touch me not into our game of catch.

It is so strange that so many years later I can still remember the girls (and a few of the more daring boys) who would play with us and we screamed "touch me not". To stop any one touching us we would squat down and this made us untouchable. It was just such child like pure fun.

Today any kind of touching might even bring a young boy to court!! Teachers are also sensitive and are always on the look out for ways to punish and condemn boys who pinch girls. But they do not realise that some girls are worst bullies than boys. Many girls have indeed turned out to be more gangsters than their male counterparts.

But the availability of touch me nots in the school compound gave us one of our best science lessons we ever had. It was so hands - on and practical. Thanks Mr. Tiong.

Native to Brazil, this short lived evergreen sub shrub is usually treated as an annual. It is grown for its curiosity value- the fern like leaves close up and droop when touched, usually re-opening within minutes. It has prickly stems and small, fluffy, ball shaped pink flowers in summer. It grows to a height of 5 ft and spreads around 3 ft- a perennial plant, it grows to a height of 0.5m with a spread of 0.3m. In some areas this plant is becoming a noxious weed. The stem is erect, slender and branching. The leaves are bipinnate, fern like and pale green- closing when disturbed. The flowers are pale lilac pink, occurring in globose heads and appearing in summer. Indigenous to the northern hemisphere, it is adaptable to most soils in an open, sunny position, and is drought and frost tender. Due to its ability to fix nitrogen from the air it does well on poor soils. "Sensitive Plant" folds up its leaves when touched or exposed to a flame. This plant requires a medium light exposure, an evenly moist soil, and temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees. One should use caution when handling seedlings because the plant dislikes root disturbance. Mimosa may be difficult to grow and is sensitive to over watering.
Photographed in Manipur

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