Touch Me Not, Jewelweed!



Hands off if you know what’s good for you!  You may be the target of an assault by a wildflower! 

Seriously, Touch-Me-Not is beginning to bloom and I don’t think there is a prettier or more entertaining flower around.  Orange and trumpet-shaped,  it is flecked with a red “nectar guide”.  There is a yellow version known as “Pale Touch-Me-Not”.  Growing in damp, shrubby stands, Touch-Me-Not gets its name from the spring-action of its seed-delivery system.  Mature seeds burst forth from the pod when touched.  Boing!  You can actually see the little tendrils of the exploded seed pod after it shoots off.  They look like watch springs.  The seeds can launch themselves over a very wide distance.  With a little practice you can learn to catch them when the pod explodes.  If you manage it, eat a few.  They taste like walnuts.

The very same plant is also known as “jewelweed” for the silvery coloration of its leaves when wet.   “Jewelweed” and “touch-me-not” are interchangeable names for the same plant.  They are members of the genus that contains the  impatiens flower loved by gardeners with shady yards.  But like most living things the wild version(s) are hardier than their cultivated counterparts, and although touch-me-not is said to prefer damp places I’ve seen it grow in dry spots too.  Nursery-bought impatiens curls up its toes and dies in the sun and heat.  In order to be biologically successful in this world, it’s better not to be too fussy.

It’s also helps to be more than just a pretty face.  Touch-me-not is endowed not simply with good looks and a talent to amuse.  It is also known as an effective antidote to poison ivy.  A component found in the stem of the plant neutralizes the urushiol oil that makes PI so itchy.  If exposed to poison ivy, look around for some jewelweed.  It shouldn’t be hard to find.  They grow in similar places.

The “cure” is simple.  Crush the stem and rub the liquid anywhere the evil ivy has touched you.   Blisters may fail to appear at all, or may be less irritating if they do.  Even if you can’t find any jewelweed and you break out in the typical rash, jewelweed can mitigate the symptoms.

I heard of one chap (though the truth of the story can’t be verified) who unwittingly made love to a woman in a patch of poison ivy.  As an Eagle Scout, he knew of jewelweed’s properties, and upon realizing his recklessness used the liquid to mitigate the possible results of his actions (at least one of them).  Apparently, the woman was “non-reactive” to poison ivy.  Touch-me-not indeed.   

As a folk remedy, touch-me-not has also been touted as a cure for ringworm, burns, cuts, sprains and acne.  I don’t know if it is effective against these ailments, but I do think the “poison ivy cure” legend is accurate.  At least I hope it is for that Eagle Scout’s sake.

See you on the trails,
Diane Tucker, Estate Naturalist


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15 Responses to “Touch Me Not, Jewelweed!”

  1. Ratty Says:

    I could kick myself! Somebody else introduced me to this plant on one of his blog posts almost a year ago. I’ve been looking for one so I can set it off ever since. As soon as I saw your picture, I thought to myself that it’s the same flower that I just got pictures of just a few days ago. Then when you revealed its identity I knew I missed my opportunity. I now have to try to remember where I saw it and hope it’s still there. Thanks for reminding me with your great post. I knew I recognized it from somewhere when I was taking the pictures.

    • hillsteadnatureblog Says:

      Hi, Ratty! Go on back and find it again-it’s so much fun. I love our partnership-so nice to share nature with each other even though you are so far away. What was the other blog you were looking at with jewelweed on it? It sounds like one I would like to follow. Can you remember? Cheers, Diane

  2. Ratty Says:

    I went back and found them again, but I couldn’t get them to go off. I have plenty of good pictures though. I should have left the website address before. You’ll love that site. He’s my very first friend here on the web, and he helped me a lot in the beginning. Here it is…

    WiseAcre Gardens

    • hillsteadnatureblog Says:

      I should have mentioned that the pods have to be really, really ripe. Also, don’t be fooled. The pods are the longish ones, not the sort of plump heart shaped ones. The real pods look a little like a pea pod only narrower. Or, the pods you tried just need to ripen a bit more. Have fun trying! Cheers, Diane

  3. haplesshousewife Says:

    What a plant: fun and useful in an attractive package; I’m not aware of anything like it around here. Then plants are not my strong suit. I must ask about.

  4. Bridget Willard Says:

    Wow. That’s neat!

  5. Debt Settlement Program Says:

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  6. Bill Bartmann Scam Says:

    Great site…keep up the good work.

  7. Work from home Says:

    Cool site, love the info.

  8. Bill Bartmann- Says:

    Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! 🙂

  9. hillsteadnatureblog Says:

    Thank you!

  10. Natalie Says:

    Hey Diane,

    I was curious as to whether or not there are any other plants around the museum, besides jewelweed, that have medicinal properties?

    • hillsteadnatureblog Says:

      Natalie, There are many, many. A few that spring to mind are boneset-reputed to help with bone injuries, and heal-all which had so many medicinal effects they couldn’t be condensed into one name! I can suggest a few good books on this, and any good wildflower guide may mention medicinal folklore. Cheers, Diane

      • Natalie Says:

        Thanks, that’s really interesting. I was sick recently, and the doctor gave me Belladonna, which got me interested in using herbs and flowers to heal myself.

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