Jewelweed: Wildflower Wednesday


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!”

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