Common Name(s): Albizia, mimosa, silk tree, siris
Distribution: Tropical (and some subtropical) regions worldwide
Genus Size: About 130-150 species (with over 300 additional species treated as synonyms)
Mechanical Characteristics: Generally low to medium weight with moderate strength. Grain is commonly interlocked, but overall workability of most species is good.
Visual Characteristics: Ranges in color from light brown to darker reddish brown, sometimes mixed with lighter or darker stripes. Heartwood color is usually linked to density—heavier pieces tend to be darker in color. Darker pieces are sometimes compared to walnut.
Identification: Tropical species are diffuse porous, with large, infrequent pores surrounded by vasicentric and confluent parenchyma. Albizia stands as one of the few genera with a wide distribution spanning different continents where the heartwood of all species consistently fluoresces under blacklight. (This is in contrast with Afzelia, where the wood is fluorescent much less consistently and not as strongly.) A lack of fluorescence in the heartwood would generally rule out Albizia.
Comments: The genus is named after Filippo degli Albizzi, an Italian naturalist and a descendant of the Albizzi noble family of Florence. He helped introduce the Asian ornamental mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) to Europe in the 1700s. Some older sources still retain the now-obsolete double-z genus spelling as Albizzia. Mimosa, along with a number of other Albizia species, are sometimes referred to as silktree—in reference to the unique flowers which bear a resemblance to strands of silk.
Many Albizia species are fast growing, and in non-native areas some trees are considered as invasive species. There are also a few important commercial species that were either formerly placed in the Albizia genus, or their inclusion is in dispute. Two such examples include monkeypod (Samanea saman) and batai (Falcataria moluccana). Additionally, the Acacia genus is closely related to Albizia—both are contained within the Mimosoideae clade, which is a further subdivision of the Fabaceae family above the genus level.