Jewelweed: Wildflower Wednesday

– Posted in: Native/Invasive
12 comments

If you have to have a weed in your garden, jewelweed is a great choice. First and foremost, jewelweed is very, very easy to remove from any place you don’t want it. That’s got to be the number one consideration where weeds are concerned. Also, it’s useful. Snap a stem and rub the juicy end on any itch (bug bites, poison ivy etc.), and you will get relief. It’s also fun. Touch a ripe seedpod and it pops open, shooting seeds everywhere.

Impatiens capensis with seed capsules

Two seed capsules dangle beneath the flower. The merest touch will cause them to pop open explosively.

(That’s why it has another nickname, Touch-me-not.) And to top it all off, the flowers are beautiful. They are beautiful enough to incorporate judiciously into the domesticated garden.
jewelweed in garden

Jewelweed picks up the color of Lilium henryi in the Parking Pad bed. Great blue lobelia complements the orange flowers.

Two native species

There are two species of jewelweed native to my area. The more common orange flowered one is Impatiens capensis. According to Illinois Wildflowers, the ruby-throated hummingbird, honeybees, bumblebees, and swallowtail butterflies feed on jewelweed nectar. Several kinds of caterpillars and deer eat the foliage. Several kinds of birds and the white-footed mouse eat the seeds.

Impatiens pallida

Yellow jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) has bigger flowers and leaves.

As best I can tell from Illinois Wildflowers, the same animals and insects that like orange jewelweed like yellow jewelweed as well. Supposedly it’s less common, but there are huge patches of it along a nearby road. They almost look like hedges spangled with creamy yellow ornaments.

Why is it a weed?

With all this going for it, why is jewelweed even a weed? Why don’t more people grow it in their gardens? Remember those seedpods that pop open like popcorn, shooting seeds all over the place?

jewelweed patch

Jewelweed can quickly take over any open moist soil.

It’s an enthusiastic self-seeder and the flower-leaf ratio is perhaps not as high as some would like. I like to leave a few plants in the wilder areas of my garden, tucked up against the garden shed or weaving through the Incrediball hydrangea, but I do pull it out of most garden beds. That lovely, glowing orange is especially delightful against purple foliage or flowers.

You’ve got to have moist soil to make jewelweed happy, and it’s only native to northern and eastern North American. If it’s not native to your area, I feel a little bit sorry for you. It’s as nice a weed as a gardener could wish for–if a gardener needed to wish for weeds.

Posted for Wildflower Wednesday, created by Gail of Clay and Limestone, to share wildflowers/native plants no matter where you garden in the blogosphere. “It doesn’t matter if we sometimes show the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. It’s always the fourth Wednesday of the month!”

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

Kathy August 29, 2017, 7:52 am

I am very fond of jewelweed and have it in patches in my garden at the village and it grows at the lake as well. I will admit that one year it became a bit too enthusiastic but now I thin it pretty judiciously. That year, though, it did cure my husband’s poison ivy. The hummingbirds do love it and I notice the bumblebees love it at the lake. I don’t consider it a weed! In fact I always tell people it is a member of the impatiens family genus!

Donna@Gardens Eye View August 28, 2017, 5:37 pm

Jewelweed would be happy in my moist garden areas but not a wildflower I have seen around here….I will research it a bit and may add some.

Diana Studer August 27, 2017, 6:34 am

Which capensis is yours named for? I expect that to be a label attached to our Flora Capensis in the Western Cape of South Africa.

Kathy Purdy August 27, 2017, 4:34 pm

Very astute question, Diana. The person who named it erroneously believed it was from South Africa. But it’s native to North American.

Diana Studer September 6, 2017, 9:50 am

I wish when they got the names wrong, they would change them for the right ones. We have a Plectranthus madagascariensis. Which has nothing to do with Madagascar ;~)

Louise August 26, 2017, 12:33 pm

I wish I could like it as much as you do. I would leave a few plants if I could acturally weed it out. I have moist soil and live in NY. I cannot even pull all of it, given the thorny vines and other weeds that are more harmful.

commonweeder August 26, 2017, 9:04 am

I also love jewelweed. It was one of the few plants I could identify as a young child. It also has some medicinal properties – the white sap is said to soothe bug bites, and even poison ivy if applied right after touching the poison ivy.

Helen at Toronto Gardens August 26, 2017, 7:40 am

Funny, I’ve been collecting pictures to post about jewelweed, too! Nice post. Do you have the same problem in NY with the invasive Himalayan jewelweed (the purple one)? It’s quite a space-invader in Toronto’s wet-and-wild spaces – much more aggressive than the native species.

Kathy Purdy August 26, 2017, 8:03 am

I’ve heard of the Himalayan jewelweed, but I haven’t seen it around here.

Layanee DeMerchant August 26, 2017, 7:00 am

It is a jewel of a weed.

Lea August 26, 2017, 4:12 am

Great photos!
I have been looking for it here in Mississippi, but have not seen it yet.
Have a great week-end!

Gail August 25, 2017, 5:35 pm

I love this beauty and sure wish it would pop up in my garden. it’s just too dry, but I admire it when ever I see it and start wishing again. Love this a WW star!