June 8, 2014 – 02:00 pm

Impatiens capensis. Also common jewelweed, orange jewelweed, spotted jewelweed, spotted touch-me-not, orange balsam.


I first noticed this weed about twenty years ago growing at the edge of a wetland not too far from a major freeway. I was taken with the plant’s showy flowers and motivated to discover its common name, jewelweed. I later remarked on it to a horticulturist friend who was quick to point out to me that, while some people use the flowers in salads, the plant is toxic and shouldn’t be eaten. Of course I believed this without qualification for a number of years before checking it out for myself.

I’m writing it about it today because there’s a robust collection of them growing at the edge of an urban wetland that I pass on my way to the gym. This damp piece of earth, tucked between apartment buildings and a large shopping mall, is a jewel in itself. To see it in bloom with Impatiens capensis is a lovely treat.

As accessible and appealing as my patch is, I’ve been reluctant to eat from it for a couple reasons. One, the wetland receives a large volume of urban runoff potentially laden with pesticides, heavy metals, fecal coliforms and other contaminants. Two, area bees and hummingbirds love the stuff and I hate to think I’m robbing them of it. Some fine day I’m sure I'll come across a patch growing in a safer spot, but for now I’m limited to writing about it.

photo by D. Gordon & E. Robertson

What Does It Look Like and Where Can I Find It?Jewelweed is an annual plant native to eastern North America. Its flowers are irregular and trumpet-like, under 1 inch long, orange, usually spotted with red, yellow or white, and have a three-lobed corolla. One of the lobes forms a hooked spur containing nectar. In the Pacific Northwest, jewelweed is in flower from July into October.

The stems are somewhat translucent, succulent, and have swollen or darkened nodes. The delicate, long-oval, long-stalked leaves are 1/4 to 1/2" long, with a few rounded teeth. Leaves appear to be silver or 'jeweled' when held underwater. The upper leaves are alternate, the lower ones opposite. The seed pods are pendant and have projectile seeds that explode out of the pods when they are even lightly touched. Mature seeds are flattened-ovate, green to blackish, and with a ridge running along the length on both sides.

Jewelweed plants grow up to five feet tall, branching toward the top, and toughening with age. Common Jewelweedmost enjoys growing in damp to wet soils in wetlands, in ditches and along streams and lakes. Because the angle of the nectar spur varies, the plant attracts a variety of pollinators, hummingbirds being the most frequent visitors with moths, butterflies and bees. If you submerge the leaves in water, their undersides will turn silvery, delighting children of all ages.With a little skill, you can encompass the seeds with your hand (careful not to touch until you’ve encircled the seeds) and ‘catch’ them. Holding tightly, let them pop into your hand. They have a slightly nutty flavor and make a good trail snack. Though considered by many to be native to the Pacific Northwest, this is inaccurate. Rather, they are introduced from eastern North America and are often confused with their native cousins, I. noli-tangere and I. ecalcarata.Regardless of the species, jewelweed stems can be crushed and used to treat skin rashes, nettle stings, poison ivy/oak and insect bites.

photo by Derek Ramsey

The leaves and seeds of several types of jewelweed are eaten in Asia. The young shoots (up to 6 inches) can be served as a cooked green by boiling for 10 to 15 minutes in 2 changes of water. (Do not drink the cooking water.) The seeds, while small, are worth the effort (see above for harvesting tips) because they taste pleasantly nutty.


EXCITED PROMOTION 30 Garden Balsam Impatiens Balsamina Flower Seed Garden Plants
Lawn & Patio ()
  • 20-30cm in height.Excellent in border, pot plant and field plant. Favor to sunshine and fear the shadow. Require ample sunshine and rich, loose and well-drained...
  • Space: 15*20cm Sunlight Requirement: Halfshadow,Sunniness Seeded to Mature: about 70 days Seed Longevity: about 2 years Germination Percentage: ≥80%
  • Latin name: Impatiens balsamina Color(Fruit): Blending Plant Height: 20-30cm Use: parterre,pot flower Weight:5g
  • 1. Please store the seeds in a shade and cool, dry place. 2. Because of climate conditions or improper cultivation techniques of loss, we shall not bear the economic...

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Safety of eating those veg.'s

Pressure-treated wood is extremely toxic (contains copper and arsenic.) The poisons will leach into the soil and possibly get into the water supply. According to this datasheet on PT wood, it will get into vegetables grown near it. The report doesn't mention what is a safe distance to plant near PT wood. From Environment & Human Health, Inc.
If you are building a fence you might use environmentally-safe rot-resistant wood or the new wood mixed with plastics for the posts. Sawing PT wood is especially dangerous because the sawdust can get in your mouth and eyes and on the hands/paws and feet of children/animals

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