Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Jewelweed (Spotted touch-me-not)

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Ever since I featured a relative of this week’s featured wildflowers three years ago, I’ve been on the hunt for Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). Sometimes called orange jewelweed or spotted touch-me-not, this plant is native to most of the U.S. and Canada.

Jewelweed thrives in wet habitats: “moist woodlands, partially or lightly shaded floodplains along rivers, edges of woodland paths, swamps, seeps and fens, and roadside ditches.” Anecdotally, less of it is blooming in Iowa this year, due to our unusually dry summer. But a reader tipped me to a large colony of these bright orange flowers at the edge of Greenwood Pond in Des Moines.

The shape and color of jewelweed blossoms are easy to distinguish from all other late summer wildflowers.

I recommend learning to identify the leaves. They appear months before the flowering period and can be an effective itch remedy and anti-inflammatory. The Illinois Wildflowers and Minnesota Wildflowers sites contain botanically accurate descriptions of the foliage.

Jewelweed often grows near poison ivy. I took this picture in early June. On the left, poison ivy. In the middle, foliage for white snakeroot. On the right, leaves of yellow jewelweed, closely related to orange jewelweed.

You can rub the juice from jewelweed leaves on your skin immediately after exposure to poison ivy or stinging nettle, or crush and boil leaves for a poultice. Kim Cornick has some yellow jewelweed growing in her yard. She told me that even though she doesn’t react to poison ivy, she keeps a concoction handy during the summer for friends and family who may need it.

I use my food processor to grind the cleaned young leaves and stems to a pulp, then mix with witch hazel as a preservative. Keeps in the fridge for a couple weeks, and is easily

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