Variations on a Theme: Jewelweed

Impatiens species; Balsaminaceae

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Impatiens capensis
aka spotted jewelweed, spotted touch-me-not
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Impatiens pallida
aka pale or yellow jewelweed, pale or yellow touch-me-not

 

 

Of the five native North American Impatiens species, three are found in the Pacific Northwest, while I. pallida is a more eastern species and I. capensis is found almost everywhere except California and the drier states of the West.  The former species is listed as “special concern” in Maine; otherwise there are no conservation issues with either.

Impatiens pallida and Impatiens capensis are almost identical; the only significant differences are the flower color and position of the nectar tube (sadly, I was unable to get close enough to any blooming I. pallida for a clear illustration of this).

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Both plants grow to 5 feet tall, preferring wet soils.  You can find I. capensis along the edges of small streams and the banks of the C&O Canal.  I. pallida is less common in the Potomac Gorge, though I did see a few plants just outside Washington, DC.  There are huge stands of it lining the canal at Snyder’s Landing, near Sharpsburg.

Snyder’s Landing, by the way, is a great place to hunt for ferns.  More on that another time.

Flower of the Day: Common Jewelweed

aka spotted touch-me-not, orange touch-me-not, orange jewelweed; Impatiens capensis; Balsaminaceae (touch-me-not family)

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This easily-found annual plant grows 2-5′ tall, with flowers borne in small clusters in the upper leaf axils.  It likes the wet soils along stream banks, and can be found over most of the US and Canada except the desert southwest, Montana, and Wyoming.  In this area, you can also find the less common pale touch-me-not, I. pallida, along the C&O canal in DC (where I saw it last year).

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The touch-me-nots are closely related to the very popular bedding plant called impatiens that you find just about any place that sells plants.  This native species attracts ruby-throated hummingbirds, and is an especially important food source for bumblebees.  Supposedly the sap has anti-fungal properties, and can relieve itching from poison ivy as well.

Supposedly the common name “touch-me-not” comes from the fact that the ripe seed pods explode and fling seeds everywhere at the slightest touch.