Silk tree

Albizia julibrissin

Other Names: Silk tree, Silktree, Silk-Tree, Powder-puff.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers, leaves.

Edible Uses: Tea.

Young leaves - cooked. An aromatic flavour, they are used as a potherb. Flowers - cooked. Eaten as a vegetable. The dried leaves are a tea substitute.

Medicinal Uses

The flower heads are carminative, digestive, sedative and tonic. They are used internally in the treatment of insomnia, irritability, breathlessness and poor memory. The flowers are harvested as they open and are dried for later use. The stembark is anodyne, anthelmintic, carminative, discutient, diuretic, oxytocic, sedative, stimulant, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary. It is used internally in the treatment of insomnia, irritability, boils and carbuncles. Externally, it is applied to injuries and swellings. The bark is harvested in spring or late summer and is dried for later use. A gummy extract obtained from the plant is used as a plaster for abscesses, boils etc and also as a retentive in fractures and sprains.

Other Uses

Gum, plaster.

A gummy extract of the plant is used as a plaster. No more details available. Wood - dense, hard, strong, takes a good polish. Used for furniture, industrial applications, firewood etc.

Cultivation details

Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil and a very sunny position. Succeeds in dry soils. Highly fertile soils can promote soft sappy growth which is frost tender. Trees tolerate a high pH, saline soils, high winds and drought. They also succeed in poor soils. Trees prefer a more continental climate than Britain and when dormant are hardy to about -20°c in such a zone. They are only hardy to about -10°c in the maritime climate of this country. The young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun. If killed back to the ground by a severe winter, plants can often resprout from the base. The form  Plants are quite tolerant of pruning and can be fan-trained for growing on a wall. Any pruning is best done in late winter or early spring. Often grown as a summer bedding plant. Quite tolerant of being transplanted. Plants often produce suckers. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Propagation

Seed - pre-soak 24 hours in hot water and sow March/April in a greenhouse or sow as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Germinates in 2 - 3 months at 19°c. Scarification helps. There are about 11,000 seeds to a pound, about 25 - 33% of which germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of fairly rich soil when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer and consider giving them some protection from the cold for their first winter or two outdoors. Root cuttings, late winter in a greenhouse. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Suckers planted out in late winter.

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