Friday, August 10, 2012


First off, they're not weeds.  They're attractive native wildflowers.  Second, and this is unfortunate, they are not jewels.  The name comes from water's inability to wet the leaves, so after a rain or morning dew, beads of water rest on the surface and scatter light like diamonds.  The plant's alternate name, touch-me-not, refers to the small seed pods that spring open and eject its seeds if you touch them when plump and ripe.

There are two species based on color. The orange species, a.k.a. Spotted Touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis) is speckled with reddish-brown and its long tail spur curls underneath the back end of the irregular blossom. It prefers wet ground and I've found it in places like the soggy edges of Middle Pond near Saranac Inn.  Ruby-throated Hummingbirds love this plant.

The dangling, one-inch flowers [roughly the length and width] of the yellow version, also called Pale Touch-me-not (Impatiens pallida) have a tail-spur that points down.  It's mostly found in limestone regions with alkaline soils and prefers damp locations like wooded flood plains and shady ravines with a steady supply of moisture.  I'd look for it in the marble (metamorphosed limestone) belts of St. Lawrence County and the limestone bands on the edge of the Adirondacks.

Impatiens are succulents with translucent green stems.  The crushed leaves and stem juice (particularly from the Orange Jewelweed) are folk remedies for poison ivy rash, insect bites, nettles, minor burns and cuts.

Young shoots in spring and the stems and leaves in summer can be eaten as cooked greens.  Boil in two changes of water and discard the water.

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  1. Beautiful photos! I only know an European Touch-Me-Not, the Mimosa pudica. In Belgium and the Netherlands we don't have hummingbirds. It is therefore I've enjoyed reading and viewing your post on this plant and its pretty hummingbird.

  2. This is one of my favorite wildflowers. I love telling fellow hikers to touch those plump seed pods, not knowing that they will be in for a surprise when it bursts open, usually scaring the dickens out of them. It is particularly fun to do with children and hard to get them to leave the rest of the Jewelweed seed pods alone because it is fun. Thank you for the spotlight on this beautiful plant.