Scientific Name: Impatiens capensis
Common Name(s): Jewelweed, Orange Jewelweed, Spotted Touch-me-not
Photos by Kayla Sayre, Bella Vista POA Fisheries & Water Quality Sr.
Jewelweed is a tall, branching herbaceous annual plant with orange and red speckled flowers. These orange-speckled flowers have five petals, and one of the sepals is modified into a pouch structure that gives the flower a cornucopia shape. Jewelweed can grow to heights of 2 to 5 feet and widths of 2 feet. It has brittle, watery, and almost translucent branching stems. The stems can be pale green to red and come off a shallow branching taproot. The leaves are arranged around the stem in an alternating pattern. Jewelweed is in the touch-me-not family (Balsaminaceae). The fruit capsules burst and expel seeds with the slightest touch.
Yellow jewelweed is a rare plant to find and can accompany orange jewelweed. Yellow jewelweed is distinguished from orange jewelweed by its flower, which is larger and yellow. Additionally, yellow jewelweed tends to be a larger plant. The cultivated Impatiens walleriana is closely related and is the most popular bedding plant in the United States.
Jewelweed is found in most of the United States, excluding Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, California, and Alaska.
Jewelweed is an annual, so it dies in the winter and new plants grow from the seeds produced in previous years. Jewelweed flowers bloom from late summer until the first frost. Jewelweed makes two types of flowers and seeds. It produces its typical flowers (shown above) that insects and hummingbirds cross-pollinate. The second flower is small and inconspicuous and originates near the base of the leaves. The small flower is self-fertile (circled in picture above). Flowers that self-fertilize in this manner are called cleistogamous. The cross-pollinated seed produces more robust and larger plants, but the cleistogamous flowers create seeds at a much lower energy cost to the plant. Having two seed production modes makes jewelweed more adaptable to different environmental conditions.
Once established, jewelweed continues to produce vast stands of plants. Jewelweed prefers moist soil and partial sun. It does well in edge habitats- including forest edges, floodplain forests, lakesides, stream sides, marsh edges, and bog edges. It also does well in disturbed habitats such as ditches, lowlands, and roadcuts. Interestingly, jewelweed is one of the few aggressively native species, which makes it a good plant for habitat restoration since it can out-compete invasive species such as garlic mustard. It also does well on landscapes managed using prescribed burns.
Historically Indigenous peoples used the sap from the stems and leaves to relieve skin conditions such as itch and pain from poison ivy and stinging nettle, as well as hives and other skin irritants. The sap has anti-fungal properties and was historically used to treat athletes-foot. The berries can be toxic, especially if eaten by children.
Jewelweed grows at Tanyard Creek and along the drainage into Windsor Lake at London Landing. Look for it along the lakeshores, streamsides, and drainage areas in Bella Vista. Jewelweed would be a beautiful addition to any backyard in Bella Vista, especially since they do well along forest edges and lakeshores. It is easily cultivated by direct sowing in the fall. Once established, it continues to maintain itself through annual seed production. Jewelweed attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. It is also mildly deer resistant.