Look but don’t touch. Oh, go ahead. It won’t hurt you. It will just make you jump. The more common name for the plant is “Touch-me-not.”
Jewelweed, or Impatiens capensis, can shoot its seeds as far as ten feet away if you so much as brush a finger against its long seed pod.
The pods begin appearing at the end of July and will keep on through September. It’s a favorite on nature walks, scouting trips or to just freak out the uninitiated, with the words “oh look, jewelweed, touch this seed.”
In fact, the Latin name “Impatiens” is derived from the seed’s impatience to burst forth upon the world.
The beautiful flowers last only a day, and succeed each other on the tall weeds, providing food for humming birds, moths and bees. You will find jewelweed along the side of the road, in wet ground, and all over North America. In my part of Upstate New York, the flowers are more yellow and the seed pods, even rips, are green, not brown as the ones shown below. Other varieties even have pink flowers.
And yes, the Impatiens in your garden, bred from Impatiens walleriana, native to East Africa, are a relative as are others in the Balsaminaceae family that are closely related to carnivorous plants. Quite a family. Does it cure, or lessen the symptoms of poison ivy and poison sumac? Some think so. The science is still out on that one.
You can read up on Impatiens capensis, if you enjoy sentences like “The zygomorph flowers of Impatiens are protandric.” Or you can just go outside and have a look around. Take some neighborhood children with you and see if you can get them to touch a seed pod.