From early summer to fall, Common Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is blooming in High Park. With its warmly coloured trumpet-shaped flowers, Common Jewelweed is easily a favourite of hummingbirds as well as many species of butterflies, and bees.
The blooming flowers is one thing about this plant that we always enjoy; however, this time of year we are also excited about the dispersal of its seeds.
Common Jewelweed seeds grow in inch-long pods that are longer than they are wide. Each seed pod will have three to five seeds in it. The seed pods expand in size, building up pressure over time. Once they are ripe, the seed pods look swollen and will eventually explode, sending the seeds up to 2m away from the parental plant to help spread growth of new plants! Even the slightest disturbance, like wind, rain, or a nature lover’s fingers, will cause those seed pods to quickly coil up. This forceful ejection of seeds is referred to as the process of explosive dehiscence. There is no question that this plant earned its popular nickname “touch-me-not” from this unique seed dispersal mechanism.
Keep and eye out for common Jewelweed and their exploding seed pods on your next visit to High Park!
-Jewelweed is known for its skin-healing properties. The leaves and sap are used to relieve the itchiness of poison oak, ivy and other skin rashes caused by plants. It works by counteracting the chemicals in other plants that cause the rashes.
-Jewelweed has hydrophobic leaves. As such, water drops bead on the surface after a rain and look like shimmering little jewels. This is likely how this plant got the common name “Jewelweed.”