Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I learned to recognize jewelweed as a kid for two reasons…the first being its folksy entertainment value, and secondly its usefulness. 

The entertainment part came from the fact the plants produce what's called "projectile" seeds. From late summer onward, when things have matured, a mere touch to the pendant seed pods causes them to burst open, flinging out the ripe seeds contained inside. To this day, I still find it amusing to act as the catalyst for this delightfully explosive moment of reproductive scattering. 

It's also the reason another name for jewelweed is touch-me-not.

Jewelweed's useful-ness arises from its long history and scientifically proven efficacy (sources which claim otherwise simply aren't up on the latest research) in treating all sorts of skin irritations, including poison ivy dermatitis. It's especially valuable to anglers and anyone who regularly visits stream-banks and moist woodland paths where stinging nettles are regularly found.

Should you inadvertently brush your bare legs or arms through a nettle patch and subsequently start to feel their burning stings, quickly look around for a bed of jewelweed, which—nine times out of ten—can be found growing nearby. Then, pull off a handful of jewelweed—leaves and stems, even flowers—crush them a bit to extract their juice, and rub the pulpy mash on the affected area. Instant relief.

The most common species is orange jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, though around these parts, I routinely find yellow jewelweed, Impatiens pallida. Both will often grow in the same patch.

In addition to being entertaining and useful, jewelweed is also quite pretty. A gem of a plant, if you will…aptly named.


Rowan said...

It's a really pretty little plant - prettier than the UK cure for nettle stings which is dock leaves.

Grizz………… said...


Jewelweed is a quite lovely little flower. And the plants grow in huge patches, which makes it even more impressive.

We have dock here, too, or at least a plant of that name. The leaves are eaten as a potherb green. May not be the same plant, though.