Saturday, August 22, 2009

Touch Me Not

Touch Me Not
also called Jewelweed, Policeman's Helmet, Himalayan Balsam
(Impatiens glandulifera)

This pink form of jewelweed is a member of the Balsaminaceae family and, as its Latin name suggests, genus Impatiens, but a member with sass and clout and invasive attitude. It takes the biblical injunction to go forth and multiply seriously. The names are many: Kiss-me-on-the-mountain, Jewelweed, Policeman's Helmet and Touch Me Not to name just a few.

There are many forms of jewelweed world wide, and an orange form is native to parts of North America, but this outlander was growing wild in a hydro corridor leading down to the river, an import from the far Himalayas which probably escaped from the long ago plot of a now much sadder and wiser gardener.

The name of "Touch Me Not' is appropriate, for the weed has explosive seed pods which hurl up about 2500 seeds per plant, traveling up to ten kilometers before germinating the following spring. All one has to do is touch the pods to release the seeds into the air, and I remember delighting as a child in the way jewelweed launched its children into the air like tiny catapults when touched.

For all its less endearing qualities, hummingbirds love the stuff, and in native American lore, the mucilaginous sap is used to treat skin irritations caused by Poison Ivy and Stinging Nettle. The sap also has fungicidal properties and has been used to treat Athlete's Foot.

3 comments:

liliannattel said...

Beautiful photos. I love touching the dry pods. The orange ones grow in ravines not far from here.

Endment said...

I had never seen these before - lovely! We also have orange blossoms in our yard and in the hedgerows. These are very special.

Bovey Belle said...

Would you believe I have been taking photos of Touch-Me-Not Balsam today too - including a little white one I found. Plus a bumble bee on some Self-Heal. I shall have to put the photos on my blog and then we can say "Snap!"