February 5, 2012 at 11:45 pm Leave a comment

There’s a game you can play with Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). Found in damp areas such as the edge of a pond, this plant bears intricate orange and yellow flowers that soon turn into slender green seed pods. When you find some of these pods, remove them by snapping their thin stems. Then casually pass them to a friend.

Your reward will be a yelp of surprise, and possibly some unkind words about duplicitous botanists. Jewelweed seed pods are spring-loaded. They explode at the lightest touch, shooting seeds everywhere.

This plant is tougher than it looks.

With a frail, hollow stalk and thin leaves, delicate Jewelweed has a tropical appearance. Indeed, the first frost of the year instantly kills it. The plant makes up for this weakness by growing quickly, by producing some self-pollinating flowers in case the bumblebees and hummingbirds fail to do the job, and, of course, by spreading its seeds far and wide through the judicious use of explosives.

The name ‘Jewelweed’ might come from the way that tiny hairs on the leaves cause rainwater to bead up in shimmering pearls. The scientific name may derive from the impatient way that the plant distributes its seeds. It also shows Jewelweed’s relationship to the Impatiens in your garden, which, coincidentally, also produces explosive seed pods.

Jewelweed is one of the few native plants that can stand up to the vigorous invader Garlic Mustard. In the war against invasive species, it’s sometimes best to roll out the artillery.

Entry filed under: Herbaceous plants. Tags: .

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