Friday, October 7, 2011

Jewelweed (Impatiens pallida), a.k.a. Pale Touch-me-not...

Nodding in the damp edges along the Little Miami River, this beautiful yellow jewelweed flower dangled from its stem like a perfectly crafted pendant...

A beautiful yellow flower with tiny red spots, Jewelweed, loves moist soils found at the water's edge.
Yellow Jewelweed (Impatiens pallida)

I always assumed this flower was named Jewelweed because of the brightly colored yellow and orange jewel tones of the flowers, but it's not. I just read in my "Wildflowers of Ohio Field Guide," by Stan Tekiela, that it's named after the leaves. When water droplets form on the leaves, they shine like tiny, silvery jewels, and according to "Wildflowers of Ohio," by Robert Henn, when the leaves are placed under water, they shine like silver! I tested it out, and it's true.

Touch-me-not is an annual. It disperses its seed through a neat mechanism. When the seed pods dry, with the slightest touch, the pods burst open and spray seeds everywhere!
Pale "Touch-me-not" seems like a strange nickname for such a beautiful, jewel-like flower, but if you touch the seed pods when they're dry, they burst open and spray seeds in every direction. Jewelweed is an annual, so it needs to reseed itself every year, and the old "send the seeds flying method" really gets the job done!

Crushed "Touch-me-not" stems relieves the burn caused by stinging nettle.
If you find yourself in the middle of a stinging nettle patch, look around for jewelweed (the plants often grow near each other because they share the same habitat). Crush the stem of the Jewelweed and spread the liquid on the areas of the skin touched by the stinging nettle leaves. The anti-inflammatory in the Jewelweed helps relieve the sting and burn caused by the leaves. 

I read a lot of accounts where jewelweed could be used the same way on poison ivy and mosquito bites to relieve the itch, but then I read just as many accounts that disproved the notion. I read no accounts, however, that disputed its affect on stinging nettle burns.


This summer while looking for turtles with Paul along the Great Miami River I went off trail a lot and went through several patches of stinging nettle. Ouch...those teeny weeny urticating hairs go through anything, including jeans! The stings burn intensely for about 15 minutes, but then fade, so it's not too bad. The hairs on stinging nettle work like the urticating hairs on stinging caterpillars like the American Dagger Moth Caterpillar (click here for a post) and the Buck Moth Caterpillar (click here for a post). Basically, the hairs are like tiny needles that break off in the skin and dump in several chemicals: acetylcholine, histamine, 5-HT or serotonin, and formic acid (source: Wikipedia). The result is a burning sensation or sting that lasts about 15 minutes. On some, the sting can last much longer, even a day or so! 

18 comments:

Roy said...

I'll keep an eye out for the yellow kind in my wanderings today; I've already gotten plenty of shots of the orange kind. I hadn't realized they were members of the Impatiens family. Cool!

Tammy@Simple Southern Happiness said...

These are beautiful pictures!

I have never seen this flower, it looks like an orchid. The re-seed like the impatiens do.

Thank you for the information on this flower and your upcoming experiment, YOU are BRAVE! Will be interesting to see what your findings are.

Chris said...

Wow what a beautiful one and that first shot is amazing Kelly. I love the contrast between the green background and the yellow of the flower. Beautiful post!

KAT said...

great post
Thank you so much

- KAT -

rebeccainthewoods said...

It's amazing that such a large plant is annual and starts over from seed each year! They're practically shrub-sized. Jewelweed was actually the source of an early natural history epiphany for me... I was by the ditch in the back of my childhood backyard, looking at the "poppers" (none of the kids in my neighborhood knew the proper name for the plants, but we called them that because of the spectacular popping seed pods, which provided hours of entertainment). I watched the bumblebees climbing in and out of the flowers, realized that the flowers were the EXACT right shape to hold the bees, and voila, I'd discovered coevolution.

TexWisGirl said...

i hate nettles!

your first photo - looks like a girl sitting down, hands crossed in front of her, head hanging low, while her skirt flows around her legs. :)

Wanda..... said...

Lovely photos, Kelly...I've only seen the orange type here.

The thought of you actually brushing up against stinging nettle 'on purpose' made me smile, Kelly. I've only encountered contact with it once, across my ankle and lower leg...hope to never again! You are brave!

John said...

Hi Kelly,
Some stunning photos of a beautiful flower, a plant I don`t remember seeing before!
J
Follow me at HEDGELAND TALES

Montanagirl said...

Such a beautiful color! Very nice captures, Kelly.

Elaine said...

Beautiful, beautiful photos!

Jerónimo Milán said...

Beautiful photos Kelly, a greeting from my madness.

Janice K said...

Very informative. I have felt the results of Nettle but I don't know what it looks like. I look forward to seeing this in the future.

Hte Jewelweed reminds me of a tiny orchard. So pretty! I also didn't know they were part of the impatiens family.

troutbirder said...

There's something about it that reminds me of orchids. I've seen the orange one but never this color before. Thanks.

Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Wonderful post! I've not seen the yellow jewelweed. I remember stinging nettles as a child. They 'got me' several times. I'd have the jewelweed in hand prior to your test :)

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone! I mostly see the orange flowers too, but along this spot yellow is king! It really does look like an orchid...and a lady's slipper.

Guy said...

Hi Kelly

I loved the way you managed the framed the shots of the Jewelweed they are quite lovely. We had Stinging Nettles at the cabin this summer I will, carefully keep my eyes open next year.

Regards
Guy

Kelly said...

...yikes, Guy! It sounds like you might have become acquainted with the lovely sensation of stinging nettle! :-) Yes...I'm careful when I see it now too.

Mary Ann Gieszelmann said...

That's interesting, Kelly. Here in California impatiens is a common colorful garden plant, but I've never heard anything like that about the seeds. And they don't have the long tubular shape.