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Impatiens capensis

Impatiens capensis Meerb.

Impatiens biflora Walter

Impatiens fulva Nutt.

Impatiens noli-tangere L. ssp. biflora (Walter) Hultén

Impatiens nortonii Rydb.

Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderGeranialesBalsams, mustards, geraniums, wood sorrels, nasturtiums, others
FamilyBalsaminaceaeBalsam family, mostly impatiens
GenusImpatiensLatin for “impatient,” a reference to the exploding fruits
Speciescapensis“Of the cape”

About plant names...

Spotted jewelweed is a North American native plant. Impatiens means “impatient,” a reference to the fact that dried seed capsules burst open when touched. Capensis means ”of the cape,” because the botanist who named it, Nicolaas Meerburgh, believed incorrectly that the species was native to the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. The plants are common and, in some areas, invasives.

Identification: These plants are common in regions that are at least seasonally wet and partially shaded, such as creek beds or damp soils. Plants are 3-5' (1-1.5 m) high, with translucent and rather fragile stems. Leaves are bluish-green, oval-shaped, with shallow teeth, about 4" (10 cm) × 1¾" (5 cm). Flowers occur in clusters of one to three. Viewed from the side, flowers are shaped a bit like a horn of plenty, yellow, with two large lower petals and one upper petal, with spots or patches of red-orange. Each flower is about ¾" (1.9 cm) in size. They may appear orange rather than yellow from the front. The seed pods, about ¾-1¼" (1.9-3.2 cm) long, spread their seeds by drying into a spring-loaded form that pops upon contact, delighting children. A close cousin, yellow jewelweed, has no (or almost no) spots.

Medical: Spotted jewelweed has long been used as a preventative for poison ivy rash. Juice from the crushed plant is applied to the site that has been exposed. We examined many articles to learn a bit more about its efficacy:

  • Some sources suggest that the crushed stems are best; others that stems, leaves and flowers can all be crushed together. If you have a choice, use stems only, from plants that haven’t flowered yet.
  • The juice extract can be prepared in the field simply by rolling and crushing a handful of jewelweed between the hands, then applying the sap to the exposed skin.
  • Spotted jewelweed is uniformly considered to be much more effective than its close cousin, yellow jewelweed.
  • Most advocates believe that the jewelweed extract needs to be applied relatively quickly—within four hours, prior to the development of poison ivy blisters—but a few insist that it is helpful even when applied to blisters.
  • Controlled studies sometimes confirm jewelweed’s effectiveness, but not always.
  • Everyone agrees that poison ivy is often found in places where jewelweed is present (for example, both occur in my back yard). But poison ivy also grows in places where jewelweed cannot, so there is no guarantee that you can find it.
  • Jewelweed extract can be included as an ingredient of soaps, available commercially; or frozen into ice cubes and saved for later.
  • Lawsone, a red-orange dye, may be the active ingredient that has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory effects.

What do we believe? It certainly won’t do any harm: there aren’t any reports of allergic reactions to jewelweed. So, given that spotted jewelweed is fairly often found near poison ivy, and that it is easy to prepare by rubbing between the hands, it is worth a try.

Online References:

Impatiens capensis on Missouriplants.com

Impatiens capensis at Illinois Wildflowers

Impatiens capensis on CalPhotos

Impatiens capensis at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Impatiens capensis on Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses

Impatiens capensis on Wikipedia

Impatiens capensis on the Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide

Impatiens capensis on the Connecticut Botanical Society's Connecticut wildflowers site

Impatiens capensis at the Vanderbilt University Bioimages web site

Impatiens capensis on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants

References:

Foster, Steven & Duke, James A., Peterson Field Guides: A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs, Houghton Mifflin, 2000, p. 154

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

Immature seed pods · 9/13/2009 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 5 × 3½" (13 × 9.2 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

8/7/2017 · Groton Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 5 × 3" (12 × 8.4 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

Immature seed pods · 9/13/2009 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 3½ × 2½" (9.8 × 6.6 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

Unusually dark coloration. · 8/22/2013 · Beaver Brook Assn Conservation Lands, Hollis, NH
≈ 4 × 3" (10 × 8.5 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

8/7/2017 · Groton Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 6 × 10" (16 × 24 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

8/7/2017 · Groton Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 5 × 8" (13 × 20 cm)

Impatiens capensis description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 14 Aug 2017.

© FloraFinder.org. All rights reserved.


 

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

8/6/2009 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton, MA
≈ 5 × 3" (12 × 8.2 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

8/7/2009 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 4½ × 4½" (11 × 12 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

8/4/2006 · Moss Glen Falls, VT

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

8/16/2014 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 6 × 4" (15 × 10 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

8/7/2017 · Groton Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 5 × 3" (12 × 8.4 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

8/4/2006 · Moss Glen Falls, VT

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

8/4/2009 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 4 × 2½" (9.9 × 6.6 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

Immature seed pods · 9/13/2009 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 5 × 3½" (13 × 9.2 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

8/7/2009 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 4½ × 3" (11 × 8.3 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

10/2/2016 · Williams Barn and Sørhaug Woods, Groton, MA

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

Immature seed pods · 9/13/2009 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 4½ × 3" (11 × 7.9 cm)

Impatiens capensis (Spotted Jewelweed, Jewelweed)

8/7/2009 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 5 × 5" (12 × 12 cm)

Range:

About this map...