W
hen my parents, uncle, aunt and I were at the World Games Stadium in Kaohsiung, I wandered off and tried to take some arty farty photos of the flora. My Mom came over to ask why I was crawling in the dirt, but then she noticed something — 含羞草 (hán​xiū​cǎo​)! They are called mimosa pudica (or sensitive plant) in English because their fern-like leaves fold in when you brush against them.

Of course, this made me squeal and dance with glee. The only other mimosas I’ve ever seen came in a champagne glass, so I derived a great deal of pleasure from harassing the little bunches of 含羞草 and filming their resulting indignation (I like anthropomorphizing plants. I had a houseplant named Anastasia once. I miss her.).

In the first video, you can hear my parents reminscening about how they, too, liked prodding 含羞草 when they were little. My Uncle Youn says my little cousin Hazel is freaked out by them. The second video is a close-up my Mom took.

I asked my Mom why they are called 含羞草 instead of 害羞 (hài​xiū​), since both words mean “shy.” She said it’s because 含 means inward, while 害 connotes fear. 含 fits the plants better because they shrink when they are touched instead of trying to run away. (And then they silently plot your demise).

Anyway, the point of this entry is — when you travel, touch every plant you see! Something interesting just might happen. (I mean that metaphorically by the way. I don’t recommend literally touching unfamiliar plants, unless you think an emergency visit to the dermatologist and corticosteroid treatments are fun.)