The Makahiya Plant
The Makahiya Plant is a very interesting species of plant found in the Philippines. It has a variety of nicknames associated with it due to its unique characteristics. Its scientific name is Mimosa pudica but others call it the sensitive plant or the” touch me not”. The Makahiya plant is a perennial herb. It has compound leaves that sticks together and closes in whenever it is touched or when it is shaken. Afterwards it takes a few minutes for it to unfold its leaves.
When it is young, its stems stand erect but then it trails as it matures. It is slender and mildly pricky. Usually it is 5 ft tall. Its leaves are bipinnate by nature consisting of up to 26 leaves per pinna. Its petals are red with pink filaments or sometimes lavender. The plant achieves its pollination by the help of winds and insects.
The Makahiya plant is similar to other species of plants. During the night its foliage closes but opens in daylight. But aside from that its leaves have other stimuli which make it close down. It reacts to touch, wind or any sort of vibration. The decrease of turgor pressure is what causes such reactions. Turgor pressure is the force which the waters within the cell vacuoles apply to its walls. Whenever Makahiya is touched the stems get stimulated and releases chemicals resulting in the closing movement of its leaves. Other explanations say that it is also a way of the plant to defend itself from insects that are harmful.
The Makahiya have had other names such as the humble plant, chuimui (Urdu word for “to die when touched) or the ant plant. It has been called the Makahiya in the Philippines which means “a tendency to be shy”. Though it is slender and gentle in its figure, the Makahiya plant is a harmful weed which may cause troubles for crops such as corns, sugar cane, papaya, bananas, cotton and coffee. Research has shown that these plants have nitrogen fixing bacteria living in them.
The Makahiya plant has a famous old legend in the Philippines. According to old stories, there once lived a wealthy couple who had a very kind daughter. Her name was Maria and she had all kinds of good traits in personality and character. But along with those good assets was an intense shyness. Because of this she had a trouble speaking with other people and would avoid them even. And because of it too, she had made for herself a garden where she would spend most of her time.
One day, thieves came to the village and out of fear, Maria’s parents hid her in that garden and prayed for God’s protection. When the bandits arrived they took everything they could from her parents. They also knocked them down in the process. When her mother woke up, she went into the garden to look for Maria but she could not find her. Tired and hopeless she started to believe that the thieves took her daughter with them. But then she felt a flower on her feet. And looking down at it convinced her that it was Maria. She had turned into a flower as God answered their prayer to protect her. Her mother cried and each plant that was touched by her tears transformed them into the same flower. It was the same as Maria who was so shy.