color of the year for 2009 happens to be: PANTONE 14-0848
Mimosa. Something about this captured my attention.
I was casually sipping from the Internet firehose when I encountered
this tidbit of information. Why, I wondered, would I even notice
this. Color matters not to me. I’d be just as happy,
perhaps more so, in an Ansel Adams world of black, white, and shades of
The human mind works by association. (A psychologist
I used to work
with had a poster
with that saying.) These associations can be
cognitive or emotional, conscious or unconscious. Over time, with
practice, one can develop a capacity to heighten one’s awareness of
these associations. Sometimes it is helpful to notice
associations that have a distinctive or peculiar quality, and then to
follow them where they lead you in your mental life.
About a year ago, I took a walk by a house that I used to live
in. There was a tree there that had not been there before.
On impulse, I took a seed pod that was on the sidewalk under the tree,
and put the pod in my pocket.
Image courtesy of USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
In the spring, I took the seeds and put them in one of those Jiffy
seed trays. I labeled them “mystery”. A few
sprouted. One looked especially strong. I took that one and
put the peat pellet with the seedling into some potting mix, in a
3-inch coconut fiber
transplanting pot. After it developed some more, I mixed some
potting mix with local soil, and put the coconut pot into the mix in an
eight-inch unglazed ceramic pot. Now, the little tree is about
six inches tall. It looks good.
Until recently, I did not know what kind of tree it is.
A couple of weekends ago, I went to pick some apples for the local fruit CSA. Off
to the side, there was one of the mystery trees. It looks
something like this:
The lady who owns it confirmed what I suspected: it is a Mimosa tree (Albizia
julibrissin), also called a silktree. What you will
notice, is that the PANTONE 14-0848
Mimosa color is not found anywhere on this plant.
The PANTONE page that discusses the color does have a picture of a
tree. The tree does have blooms. The blooms there are “a
warm, engaging yellow.” Nothing like my Mimosa.
I am very much aware of the fact that the common names of plants are
vernacular, imprecise, and generally unreliable. So, another
mystery: what is the plant that the PANTONE folks are calling
Mimosa? The USDA plan database lists 85 hits in a search for
plants with the scientific name of Mimosa, and 23 for a search using
common names. This includes two Albizia ssp., but
not Albizia julibrissin. They do not have pictures for
all of them, and I don’t have the patience or inclination to look at
all of them.
Plus, my intuition does not direct me down that particular path.
The PANTONE folks are very bright, but they are not biologists. I
could search for days, only to find out that they are wrong about the
name of the plant they used for their illustration.
What had started out as a momentary, apparently trivial impulse (to
pick up the seed pod) turned out to be meaningful. That
meaningfulness (salience) made it stick in my mind. Learning the
name of the tree was important, too. Finding out the name, and a
little bit of the history of the plant, added some color to my Ansel
Adams world. Hence the little mental journey triggered by the
This is not how we put down roots, but it is how we figure out what