Touch-me-Not

spotted jewelweed

Touch-me-Not aka Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

Plant names can be descriptive, deceptive and sometimes obscure. In the case of spotted touch-me-not, the name suggests menace, as if spines or other nasty surprises await the curious. Not so – this is a benevolent and useful plant. The ‘touch-me-not’ refers to what happens when a ripe seed pod is touched; it opens explosively, scattering seeds in all directions. Other names include jewelweed, perhaps because of the brightly-coloured flowers, and Lady’s earrings. Scientifically, it is Impatiens capensis, the impatient one of the cape. There are other Impatiens species on the Island, but capensis is by far the most common.

Description:

This is a fairly tall (up to 1.7 m – 5.5ft) annual, found in masses in wet areas, ditches, stream banks. It usually grows in partial to full shade, although it can tolerate sunlight. The stem is rather succulent and weak. Leaves of the touch-me-not are alternate, long and thin, coarsely toothed. This plant flowers profusely over a four to five month period, from early summer to late fall. The flowers themselves are complicated. They dangle from long stalks, with three petals and an enlarged sepal which serves as a nectar sac. Flower colour is variable, usually golden to orange, with reddish-brown spots. The fruits ripen over quite a long period, so the little explosive pods can be found almost anytime.

This species is native to eastern North America and is common as far west as Saskatchewan. If you follow almost any stream here on the Island you will encounter ‘the impatient one’ waiting for you to help its in seed dispersal – I cannot pass without touching a few pods. It is easily grown from seed and will keep itself going in any wet, shaded area with decent soil – ideal around pond edges and stream-lets, where its dense habit provides cover for many amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and even birds. It is a nectar plant, very attractive to butterflies and humming birds, and thus a great addition to a wild garden.

To close on a medicinal note, Touch-me not has been used by many cultures as first aid against poison ivy attacks, insect stings and skin inflammations of various sorts – the whole plant is crushed and the watery juice smeared on irritated areas. Works for me on bee stings!

Upcoming Events

May
27
Sat
10:00 am Creating and Maintaining Hedgero...
Creating and Maintaining Hedgero...
May 27 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Creating and Maintaining Hedgerows and Windbreaks @ Macphail Woods Nature Centre | Vernon Bridge | Prince Edward Island | Canada
Join us for a workshop on creating diverse, beautiful and functional hedgerows and windbreaks using a variety of native plants. The workshop starts at 10am at the Macphail Woods Nature Centre. This is just one
Jun
3
Sat
10:00 am Plants of Prince Edward Island
Plants of Prince Edward Island
Jun 3 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Plants of Prince Edward Island @ Macphail Woods Nature Centre | Vernon Bridge | Prince Edward Island | Canada
In celebration of Island flora, biologist Kate MacQuarrie will be sharing her love of plants at Macphail Woods on Saturday, June 3. Kate will walk the nature trails of the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead in
Jun
11
Sun
2:00 pm Nature-friendly Forest Managemen...
Nature-friendly Forest Managemen...
Jun 11 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Nature-friendly Forest Management with Bob Bancroft @ Macphail Woods Nature Centre | Vernon Bridge | Prince Edward Island | Canada
Come on out to the Macphail Woods Nature Centre on Sunday, June 11th at 2pm for a great walk and talk with Bob Bancroft. Bob will draw on over 40 years of experience looking after