Friday, June 5, 2015

Wednesday's Wildflower: Jewelweed

In the cool, moist hollows and along the stream banks of Eastern North America there grows a plant that just begs to be touched. And with good reason!

Jewelweed, ironically also named Touch-Me-Not, is a living salve for virtually every affliction that plagues the skin.

There can be found two varieties of Impatiens: Impatiens capensis, also known as Spotted Touch-Me-Not, and Impatiens pallida, or Pale Touch-Me-Not.

In our neck of the woods, the Pale variety is the most common, but they are said to be equally beneficial.

Growing 3-5 feet tall, this annual can form large colonies in moist, wooded habitats, roadsides and wet open areas.

It isn't too picky about soil type - enjoying everything from loam to clay, as long is it is moist.

The stems are hollow and translucent, having an almost succulent quality, and release a slippery juice when crushed.

The alternate leaves are soft and waxy, with subtle serrations on their edges.

The flowers are distinctive and unmistakable.

Impatiens capensis
They are cone-shaped with three petals: two lobes and a hood, and the rear of the bloom resembles a slipper.

I. capanesis has striking crimson-orange, speckled blooms dangling from thread-like stalks.

Pale Jewelweed has a pale yellow bloom and a throat speckled with reddish-brown spots.

Both typically bloom in early-mid Summer and can continue into the Autumn.

The flowers are enjoyed not only by bees and long-tongued butterflies, but also hummingbirds.

In fact, a patch of Jewelweed is most coveted by these tiny birds, who can be seen darting around enthusiastically, feeding and chasing off rivals.

It has a host of colorful names.

Jewelweed describes how water droplets cling to the highly water-repellent leaves, sparkling like little diamonds when touched by the sunlight.

Silverleaf references the plant's appearance when held underwater.

Other names like Quick-in-the-hand, Touch-Me-Not, Snapweed and even the genus name Impatiens describe the unique method of seed dispersal employed by Touch-Me-Nots.

The tissues in their seed pods dry at different rates, creating tension in the seed covering.

If it is bumped or gently squeezed, the pod ruptures, sending a shower of tiny green seeds.

Walking through a ripe Jewelweed patch is like attending your own personal fireworks display! Just be sure to shield you eyes and nostrils from the exploding seeds.

These seeds are actually edible, and are said to have a pleasant walnut flavor; although it would take a substantial amount of gathering for even a mouthful.

The tender young shoots up to 8 inches tall can be harvested and boiled for 20 minutes and then eaten. The cooking liquid can be frozen in ice cube trays and used to relieve skin irritations; however you should not ingest it, due to extremely high levels of selenium. For the same reason, Jewelweed should not be eaten raw.

A trip into the woods can be dicey fur us soft-skinned humans. Parasites and irritating plants lurk around every corner, just waiting to make us itch or sting. Luckily Jewelweed is here to help!

Simply crushing the plant and rubbing it on irritated skin can work wonders. You can even use it as a preventative for poison ivy. Rubbing the mashed plant over an area where you came into contact with poison ivy can prevent a rash.

It also takes the sting out of Stinging Nettle, and reportedly always grows alongside it (although I haven't personally found this to be true, much to my chagrin).

In addition to Poison Ivy, Stinging Nettle, and insect bites and stings, Jewelweed has the power to soothe fungal infections, burns, cuts, sores, eczema, wounds and bruises.

There are plenty of ways to capture and preserve the healing properties of Jewelweed.

However, a salve is probably the best ready-to-use remedy to have on hand. Here is at least one tutorial on how to make your own:

Historically, it has had a broader range of medicinal uses than those of today, since it is no longer considered safe taken internally.

Native Americans would take an infusion to heal fevers, difficult urination, measles, stomach cramps and jaundice.

The Cherokee would use it as part of a decoction to ease childbirth. The crushed leaves applied to a child's stomach were supposed to be soothing for gastronomic distress.

Besides being a favorite with pollinators, it is also a much-enjoyed browse for deer (in fact, I had difficulty finding a patch that had been un-browsed to take photos of!)

Jewelweed is lovely enough without the fact that it is a living balm for all that ails the skin. Whether they be orange or yellow, we are lucky to have them at our beck and call when we venture into the woods.

Be sure to join us for next Wednesday's Wildflower!

Click here to read about last week's wildflower: Golden St. John's Wort

Medicinal information herein is shared strictly for anecdotal purposes. Do not attempt to self-medicate with wild herbs. Please consult a doctor first.

Next flower->


Plants for a Future

Cherokee Plants and Their Uses - A 400 Year History - Paul B. Hamel & Mary Chiltoskey

Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians - Dennis Horn & Tavia Cathcart

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places - "Wildman" Steve Brill

All About Tennessee Wildflowers - Jan W. Midgley


  1. wow! who knew it was so useful? Thanks for sharing this :D

  2. I was just looking for some around me!!! Thank you so much for the information. I don't think it started blooming here yet, but I'm on the look out :-)
    You're going to be featured this Wednesday on the Homestead Blog Hop!
    Pinned and Shared!

  3. Fascinating. We loved (OK, still do) playing with the pods as kids. I've learned recently about the poison ivy antidote and glad to know its good for all skin irritations. A blessing that it is so easy to find. Visiting from TGIM.

  4. Very informative....I don't remember ever seeing Jewelweed, but definitely will be on the lookout for it. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop! I hope you’ll join us again next week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  5. I think I just saw this in the woods today, but it was pink. Now I have to figure out if it was or not! lol thanks for the info!

    Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday. I hope to see you back this week!