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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Jewelweed...Can Native Species Be Labeled An Invasive Plant?

 Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is actually a wild native Impatiens to North America.  Also called Touch-Me-Not or Orange Balsam, this wildflower is a fun plant and often one of the first people learning to identify wildflowers can easily recognize. The flowers are a speckled orange and look like little trumpets. Personally, I think they resemble little shrimp. Preferring damp to wet soil, Jewelweed can grow to 4 - 5 feet tall and even before flowering in late summer, it isn't difficult to identify by its stalks, stems and leaves. The stalks are a lovely light green shade and after a rain, the droplets seems to lay on the surface. 

Should you find this plant after exposure to poison ivy or stinging nettles, break off the stems and crush them in your hands. You'll see that the stems are hollow and contain the itch relieving juice inside. Apply like a poultice to the areas of exposure for relief.

Children love to play with those little trumpets but actually they have a second kind of flower not usually noticed. There are tiny flowers without any petals that don't open but form the seeds. At the end of the summer season when they are ripe, the slightest disturbance sends the seed flying, very amusing for any age group. 

There are many articles out there calling this plant an invasive. Technically they aren't an invasive species in North America, but can be invasive, if that makes sense. They are native to North America, especially in the Northeast, but spread with such enthusiasm that many people consider them a pest. If they like their location they will spread and happily take over the space of other plants. What is nice to control this is to simply pull them out. They have shallow roots and gardeners just have to pull them where they aren't wanted, no gloves needed to get a grip as is the case with many plants considered weeds. 

Hopefully people encourage a natural habitat spot in their landscaping because these flowers are adored by bees, butterflies and birds. Insects need the nectar and the birds love the seeds. 

Exposure to poison ivy or stinging nettles is never planned so it is a good idea to have a remedy on hand. You don't want to push off applying something to appease the itch or you'll end up with oozing blisters and the tendency to spread. Jewelweed infused in apple cider vinegar is a perfect home remedy that works. Lavender essential oil is added for its healing properties to help with inflammation and harm done from scratching.

Once you learn what a wild plant is called and its beneficial uses, oftentimes attitudes change and it isn't just a weed. By September Jewelweed is in full bloom and brightens up roadsides, hedgerows and wet areas.

The natural world is a fascinating place and it is wonderful if children are introduced at a young age and learn to appreciate and take notice of it all.

Here is a good article all about "leaves of three, let it be"