Touch-me-not, Spotted - (Impatiens capensis)


Common Name: Touch-me-not, Spotted
Scientific Name: Impatiens capensis
Family Name: Touch-Me-Not (Balsiminaceae)
Other Common Names: Jewelweed
Flower Color: Yellow to orange w/dark spots
Habitat: Wetlands in shady areas
General Bloom Dates: June - October

General Characteristics:
Spotted jewelweed has an orangish, dark spotted, trumpet-like flower that is about 1" long (longer than it is wide) and has 2, 2-lobed petals that droop over the opening to the flower and 1 petal . About 1/4" of the length is inward curving spur of the nectary, which runs parallel to the flower. The stalks that connect the flowers are at least as long as the flowers themselves. The 1 1/2" -3 1/2" long leaves are egg-shaped, toothed, and alternate. The leaves are covered in minuscule hairs that waterproof them for unknown reasons. Although the hairs cannot be seen you can observe their effectiveness by dropping water on the leaves and watching it bead and drip off, or by submerging the leaves and noticing a silvery appearance to the leaves (trapped air). The plant itself grows on a tall, narrow stalk, obtaining height from 2' - 5'.


Plant Lore:
Jewelweed is a "high reward" flower. That means that critters that consume the nectar of the touch-me-not are getting their money's worth, or in this case they are gaining more energy than they would at another flower such as a goldenrod or an aster. In some cases insects such as bumble bees will feed on the nectar of "low reward" plants on very warm days when they don't need as much energy, and save the high reward flowers for cooler times. Another test for the plant is to break a leaf off and watch an orange liquid ooze out, similar to bloodroot. The name touch-me-not comes from this plants unique way of seed dispersal. The seed capsule of the jewelweed is elongated, and swollen, and when it is touched it explodes, sending it's seeds up to 4 feet away. There are two types of flowers on the jewelweed, self-pollinating flowers that never open and flowers that open and are cross-pollinated by other flowers. The open flowers actually change sex from male to female. If you look closely at the flower you will notice the whitish pollen on the male flowers and if you notice a green point inside the flower it is a female.

Modern Uses of this Plant:
The plants are an important source of nectar for insects and especially for hummingbirds. The plant also has fungicidal qualities and has been used to treat athletes foot. Some people also swear by jewelweed as a treatment for poison ivy, and it seems to work on some people, but it's actual qualities as a treatment for poison ivy are unknown. This plant can also be used similarly to aloe to aid in burns of the skin and relieve the itch from a bug bite.