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Naturalist Notebook

Reviews and journal entries inspired by nature in West Central Illinois.
Last Drink of Summer; A hummingbird feeding from orange jewelweed. Painting by Rose Moore, Knox County Master Naturalist

Jewelweed


About this time of year, a tiny flash of orange begins to appear along trails and paths through woodland borders and along meandering streams. This lovely little gem is Impatiens capensis also known as Orange Jewelweed, Spotted Jewelweed or Touch-Me-Not. From its Latin name you can guess what familiar garden plants it is related to. Native to North America, it is certainly a familiar bloom here in Illinois. It is a very sought after source of nectar for both bees and hummingbirds and so the pollination and success of Jewelweed here is high.

I enjoy the time when this plant is in bloom on my property. Hummingbirds just love it and it is fun to watch their territorial disputes over the best patches. It is sort of the last party before the fall arrives and these birds depart for warmer winter quarters.

The Orange Jewelweed is the most common species but recently I discovered a small patch of Yellow Jewelweed Here. Known as Impatiens pallida, it too grows in the same conditions as the orange but with bright lemon yellow blooms.

Jewelweed has the reputation of soothing skin irritated by Poison Ivy. It has a gelatin like sap much like Aloe Vera that apparently has calming properties. A good thing to know when outdoors in the woods and fields.

In the fall, Jewelweed produces many oblong seed capsules atop the plant. If touched or brushed up against these capsules explode and seeds are flung out at considerable distance. Hence It gets one of its common names – Touch- Me-Not. Even so, I love touching these and watching the seeds spring out. I am eager to assist the spread of this charming native on my property. It truly is a "Jewel" in the wild and a delight to observe during this season.

Rose Moore – Master Naturalist Intern

Late August - 2017


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