Areas with a fair bit of moisture are perfect candidates for this beautiful annual flower, often found along shady stream banks and in low forested wetland areas. Long known for the ability of its crushed stems to cure the itch of mosquito bites or even poison ivy, its exploding seed pods are also a favourite of children of all ages. Plant Description and In the Garden sections, below, are courtesy of Shaun Booth of In Our Nature.
Common Name: Spotted Jewelweed
Scientific Name: Impatiens capensis
Family: Balsaminaceae (Touch-me-not Family)
Alternate Common Names: Orange Balsam, Orange Jewelweed, Spotted Touch-me-not, Wild Balsam
Plant description: Jewelweed is a heavily branched plant with smooth, succulent stems that are reddish green and nearly translucent. Oval to egg-shaped leaves are borne in an alternate pattern and measure up to 7.6cm long and almost 3.8cm wide. They are smooth to the touch with widely spaced, broad teeth. Flowers measure 2.5cm long by 2cm wide and emerge from upper leaf axils (where the leaf meets the stem) in small clusters of 1-3 flowers. Each flower is tubular in shape with two broad lower lobes and one smaller upper lobe. Sticking out from the back of each flower is a long, narrow nectar spur that curls back underneath of the flower. Colour can vary but they are usually orange with red spots on the front petals. Note that these red spots may be very dense or even completely absent, depending on the specimen. Flowers give way to thin green seed pods that pop open from the slightest touch to spread their seeds away from the mother plant.
In the Garden: The vibrant orange flowers of Jewelweed dangle gracefully between its lush foliage, blooming for months on end. It will eagerly self-seed and quickly cover shady, moist areas with beauty and wildlife value.
Exposure: shade to part shade
Soil Type: fertile clay, loam, sand with an abundance of organic material
Moisture: moist, wet (submergence of the roots by flood water is tolerated for up to 2 weeks without apparent ill-effects)
Height: 90-150 cm
Spread: 45-75 cm
Bloom Period: Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct (till frost)
Fragrant (Y/N): N
Showy Fruit (Y/N): N
Cut Flower (Y/N): Y
Pests: few pest problems
Natural Habitat: shady wetlands
Wildlife value: Hummingbirds and butterflies seek nectar, and several native bees (listed by the Xerces society as of special value to bumblebees) collect pollen; deer will browse the foliage, while mice and many birds eat the seeds
Butterfly Larva Host Plant For: none
Moth Larva Host Plant For: Obtuse Euchlaena (Euchlaena obtusaria), Pink-Legged Tiger Moth (Spilosoma latipennis), White-Striped Black (Trichodezia albovittata)
USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-11
Propagation: [CWC, L, M] Seeds are best sown when fresh as they do not tolerate drying out. Jewelweed seeds need light to germinate and a period of cold moist stratification, followed by warm moist period, then another period of moist cold. They typically require 2 years to germinate in the wild, though depending on the winter conditions they may germinate after the first winter.
Additional Info: The juice from jewelweed stems contains a compound called lawsone which has shown to have antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. It is said to relieve itching from poison ivy mosquito bites, stinging nettle and has also been used to treat athlete’s foot.
The plant gets one of its common names, ‘touch-me-not’ because when the ripe seed pods are touched even lightly, the pods’ explosive spring-action projects the seeds for a distance of a meter or more.
From my YouTube videos – this is a jewelweed seed pod “exploding” recorded at 1/8 normal speed. It’s no wonder their seeds find their way far from the parent plant.
Very similar to Yellow Jewelweed:
Scientific Name: Impatiens pallida
Common Name: Yellow Jewelweed
Alternate Common Names: Balsam-weed, Pale Jewelweed, Pale Snapweed, Pale Touch-me-not, Quick-in-the-hand, Silverweed, Slippers, Slipperweed, Snapweed, Speckled Jewels, Spotted Touch-me-not, Wild Balsam
Yellow Jewelweed has fewer, but larger, yellow flowers than Spotted Jewelweed, with a shorter spur that bends down rather than parallel with the flower. It also has more finely toothed leaves and is a much larger plant overall. I. pallida also seems to prefer soils on the sandier end of the spectrum vs I. capensis, which seems to favour heavier soils.
USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-7