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Impatiens pallida Nutt.

Common name(s): Pale touch-me-not, Yellow jewelweed, Snapweed, Balsam, Wild balsam, Silverweed, Slippers, Quick-in-the-hand.
Family: Balsaminaceae
Type: Annual
Size: 2-6' high
Texture: Medium
Range: Nova Scotia . Saskatchewan . Georgia . Kansas
Flower
Click for another image!
Introduction:

Representing the only genus within Balsaminaceae with members native to the United States, this unique annual has many attractive qualities making it both easy to identify and desireable within a wooded garden.

Boasting bright yellow flowers in the tail end of the season, Impatiens pallida (formerly known by some as Impatiens aurea) has much to offer. The near translucent stalks glow luminously as they hold aloft a canopy of soft green leaves glittering with dew hence the common name, 'Jewelweed.' Children will delight in touching the ripe fruit, sending forth an explosive shower of seeds throughout the area. Finally, the toughness of this species lends itself well for even the most difficult corners of a garden.

Foliage:

Thin and oval to elliptic, the pale green leaves are about 1 1/2 to 3 inches in length. They have an interesting water-repelling quality, causing moisture droplets to roll around on their surface like little beads of mercury catching the morning sun.

Taxonomic description:

Thin, ovate or elliptic, pale and glaucous beneath, 1 1/2 to 3" long, generally obtuse, coarsely toothed and usually mucronate.

Flowers:

Pale yellow and usually sparsely dotted with reddish-brown markings, the flowers are present from mid-June through late September in the Chicago area. They tend to dangle from a long stalk, and a short spur protrudes from the back end at a right angle. A closely-related species, Impatiens capensis, has a longer spur that recurves under and parallel to the flower.

Taxonomic description:

Pale yellow, sparingly dotted with reddish-brown or sometimes dotless, 1" long, saccate sepal dilated-conic, as broad as long, abruptly contracted into a short, scarcely incurved notched spur less than one-third its length. The bracts of the pedicels are lanceolate to ovate and acute.

Fruit:

Taxonomic description:

Explosively dehiscent capsule (drupe).

Fall Color:

In late fall, coloration of this species is not of any ornamental value.

Related species:

I. capensis, I. noli-tangere, I. ecalcarata, I. glandulifera.

Propagation:

Although no information specific to this species of Impatiens was found, there are general guidelines available on the propagation of closely related species.

Germination can be achieved in 10 to 18 days if seeds are sown in 65°F to 70°F soil. The seeds will not germinate if no sunlight is present, so they should be left uncovered. If grown indoors, seedlings should be allowed to breathe; members of the Impatiens genus tend to be highly susceptible to damping-off disease. This is also a strong argument for new soil and clean equipment.

Comments:

This is a delightful species bringing bright colors to shaded corners when little else is blooming. Prolific enough to self-sow over a fairly large area, they require little upkeep and are provide interesting foliage during the early part of the season. Care should be taken to provide enough space for expansion, although excess seedlings and fully-grown plants are easily removed.

Suggested uses:

Mostly a selection for naturalized gardens, the native Impatiens pallida is quite stately in the back of the bed. Most effective en masse, the light green foliage glitters with dew in the early mornings. In my Chicagoland garden, the irrigation system has been strategically placed to heighten this effect (which works quite well with Lady's mantle Alchemilla mollis, as well). If possible, they should be placed in an accessible location as the flowers are better appreciated up close. Children will also be delighted with the explosive seed pods.

Companion plants:

Mesic woodland:

    Acer saccharum, Asimina triloba, Blephilia hirsuta, Carya cordiformis, Cystopteris fragilis protrusa, Dentaria laciniata, Eupatorium rugosum, Fagus grandifolia, Hydrophyullum appendiculatum, Hystrix patula, Quercus rubra, Sanguinaria canadensis, Smilacina racemosa, Tilia americana, Viola pubescens, Viola striata.

Shaded floodplains:

    Actinomeris alternifolia, Ambrosia trifida, Amphicarpea bracteata, Asarum canadese, Celtis occidentalis, Geum canadense, Impatiens capensis, Laportea canadensis, Phlox divaricata, Pilea pumila, Polygonum scandens, Rhus radicans.

Medicinal uses:

It has long been known throughout folk history that jewelweed is a remedy against one of its most closely associated companion plants: poison ivy (Rhus radicans). The juicy stems of a close relative, Impatiens capensis, are used in ointments for hemmorrhoids, warts, and corns. It also has a history of use for jaundice and asthma, although popularity in this area is diminishing.

Supposedly, one can freeze small cubes of juice obtained from the stems for future use. Pain from insect bites, nettle stings, burns, sprains, ringworm, and various skin diseases may be relieved by application.

References:

  • Britton, Nathaniel Lord and Addison Brown. An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada, vol II. New York: Dover, 1970.
  • Bubel, Nancy. The New Seed-starters Handbook. Emmaus: Rodale Press, 1988.
  • Keville, Kathi. The Illustrated Herb Encyclopedia. New York: Mallard Press, 1991.
  • Mohlenbrock, Robert H. Guide to the Vascular Flora of Illinois. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 1986.
  • Newcomb, Lawrence. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. Boston: Little Brown, 1977.
  • Pojar, Jim and Andy Mackinnon. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Redmond: B.C. Ministry of Forests, 1994.
  • Rickett, Harold William. Wild Flowers of the United States: The Northeastern States, vol. 2. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.
  • Swink, Floyd and Gerould Wilhelm. Plants of the Chicago Region. Lisle: Morton Arboretum, 1994.
  • Walters, Dirk R. and David J. Keil. Vascular Plant Taxonomy, Third Edition. Dubuque: Kendall / Hunt, 1977.
  • Wyman, Donald. Wyman's Gardening Encyclopedia. New York: MacMillan, 1986.


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