15 Sep 2014
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Tickle Me, I Can Take It

This kid-friendly plant does more than just grow.

Tickle Me, I Can Take It Tickle Me, I Can Take It Tickle Me, I Can Take It

I was intrigued to learn about this tropical plant that closes up at night and whenever it's touched.

The website for the Tickle Me Plant is colorful with videos of fascinated children and catchy music that drew me in, as it did my kids. Through the magic of slow-motion and time-lapse photography, leaves fold and the pink flower spheres brighten and fade. Even the leaf icons used to navigate the site fold up when clicked on.

I've known about this plant for ages—the Sensitive Plant. My kids recognized it, too. This summer, we'd run across a colony of it in a trough garden at an arboretum. The kids spent time running their hands over the leaves to see the plants transform from jungle to blighted landscape. They wanted to know if the leaves ever opened up again.   

They do, of course. In an hour or so, according to Logees Greenhouses in Danielson, Connecticut. I had no idea of the time frame nor that the leaves closed up at night. In fact, before Jeb wrote in, I knew very little about the Tickle Me Plant. 

The plant has been around for some time. Thomas Jefferson grew it as an annual in his gardens at Monticello. The botanical name is Mimosa pudica, a relative of the mimosa trees that are blooming in the area now. The Tickle Me Plant lives in tropical climates and is basically a vining weed. It develops prickly spines as it ages. 

The news isn't all bad, however. As Jeb reports, the Tickle Me Plant makes a great houseplant.      

What strikes me is how the Tickle Me plant is so much more interactive than a Chia Pet, another kid-friendly horticulture project from the 80's. Rather than merely watching the grass grow, kids have to participate by planting the seeds and giving the plant a sunny window and water (but not too much water). A Tickle Me kit comes with pots, soil pellets and a greenhouse you can decorate.

The Tickle Me people suggest giving packets of seed as party favors, using the Tickle Me Plant for science projects, and even selling Tickle Me products as school fundraisers.

Ordinarily, I'm leery of "$19.99" ads—products so efficient and strong that your life does a 180—but Tickle Me doesn't offer anything it can't deliver—everything nature intended.

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