Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Scented Paths: The smell of Texas Mimosa or Silk Tree, genus Albizia Julibrissin


I walk my dog every day along a suburban path built around a creek that holds an amazing amount of wildlife, considering that it is surrounded by houses. On my latest walk I came across these beautifully scented trees that were so common in my childhood but rarely seen today, what we call a Mimosa. One of my early memories is climbing our mimosa tree and in the early warm months of summer being enclosed in this temple of scent, a powerfully sweet smell emitting from its fanciful pink puffs. In Texas and the Southern US these are called mimosa trees, so when I first starting becoming more interested in perfumes and heard about the mimosa scent and the spring blooming of mimosas in France, I was so confused and shocked to see pictures of trees covered in yellow blossoms. Had my parents been calling this by the wrong name my whole childhood? To confirm this confusion, in 2014 Jo Malone came out with a cologne called Silk Blossom, and the photos showed the beloved pink puffs that I called Mimosa. I was convinced that I had been mislead all my life, sort of like how many years ago I taught a troop of Girl Scouts I was leading on a campout that the howling we were hearing in the dark distance was coming from gentle prairie dogs, which I described as being something like a dingo. In reality it was probably coyotes, as I found out a couple of years later that prairie dogs were mole like creatures that neither howled or resembled a dog. Thus do false narratives get spread. Anyway, I thought this was the case with the mimosa, aka, silk blossom tree.

Then when I did some digging I found out that where I live the tree is actually called Mimosa, even though this is a bit of a misnomer. It is also sometimes referred to as a Persian Silk Tree. When I was young they dotted our suburban neighborhood but it is now considered an invasive species and not sold in plant nurseries. As they aren't particularly long lived, they are mostly seen in more wild outdoor settings.  Then yesterday when I was delivering Meals On Wheels, I saw a Mimosa in the yard of one of the clients, a remnant from the past in this aging neighborhood.

The smell is lovely but so hard to describe. To further confuse things, I plucked a blossom from one tree which smelled totally different from a blossom that came from a tree much further down the path. If you've never smelled one, I'll try:

What a mimosa/silk tree blossom smells like:
-- Slightly sweet, but not as sweet as orange blossom
-- Slightly floral, but not as indolic or green as jasmine
-- Slightly fruity, maybe apricot or peachy, but this is faint
-- Blossoms from one of the trees had a strong scent of the white juicy rind that remains, after you've eaten away the watermelon
-- It's a delicate scent, hard to pin down

What a mimosa/silk tree blossom does NOT smell like:
Jo Malone Silk Blossom, introduced in 2014 and reintroduced this year.


I have always loved these fanciful pink puffs, so fuzzy and delicate. They remind me of the hair on the old Dr. Seuss characters, Thing 1 and Thing 2.


To me the blossoms smell like if fairies had a winery and made pink, slightly sweet effervescent brew. It is one of those ephemeral scents that is hard to pin down and probably even harder to replicate in a perfume. You can hold a gardenia or orange blossom and smell, and the scent is strong and ever present, unchanging. These delicate blossoms will give you a beautiful whiff of scent, then the next minute you can't smell anything no matter how hard you inhale. Then it's back again. Like I said, ephemeral.

Has anyone tried Max Mara Silk Touch which was released in 2007. It is supposed to have the scent of silk flower but I've never smelled it. Please let me know if you are aware of a perfume that more truthfully replicates this scent.

Photos of mimosa tree my own. Dr. Seuss is Google image.

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