In Florida, saving water and reducing nutrient runoff are top priorities for state and federal agencies. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Brooksville Plant Materials Center staff and the faculty at two University of Florida Research and Education Centers are collaborating on the development of a seed-producing, improved, low-maintenance native groundcover that can substitute for more high-maintenance grass turf in areas with low foot traffic.
Powderpuff, or Mimosa strigillosa—also known as herbaceous mimosa and sunshine mimosa—is a low-growing, native perennial legume that produces its own nitrogen fertilizer and requires little water once established. It is adaptable to a wide variety of situations including residential and commercial landscapes, roadsides and ecological restoration.
The plant’s common name comes from the showy, circular clusters of tubular purple flowers that resemble a lady’s powderpuff. The stems lie flat along the ground and form a thick carpet 2 to 3 inches tall. Once established it is very drought tolerant due to its deep root system, which can also help prevent soil erosion.
At present, there are no seed-producing lines available in Florida. The Brooksville Plant Materials Center and the University of Florida are working together to improve the use and availability of seed and plants.
Seventy samples of mimosa were collected from throughout Florida and are being planted in evaluation trials at University of Florida and NRCS research facilities in North, Central and South Florida. This collaborative work allows the mimosa collection to be tested on three distinct soil types and environmental systems simultaneously.
If any of the mimosa accessions prove to be better adapted in a given region, we will quickly know this. This joint endeavor will reduce the time required to provide the new material for wildflower seed producers and the nursery industry from 10 years to, hopefully, half that time. It will ensure consumers get the best adapted material for their region of the state.
Thanks to this partnership between NRCS Brooksville Plant Materials Center and the University of Florida, instead of grass, someday soon you may see these purple flowered powderpuff plants all over Florida roadsides and subdivisions, reducing water demand across the state—and adding to the landscape’s beauty!
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