spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
Impatiens biflora Walt.
Impatiens fulva Nutt.
Impatiens noli-tangere ssp. biflora (Walt.) Hultén
Impatiens nortonii Rydb.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of spotted jewel-
weed is Impatiens capensis Meerb. The attractive orange flowers glisten
in the sunlight, hence the name 'jewelweed.' The other jewelweed in this
genus is Impatiens pallida (yellow jewelweed). The latter has similar
foliage, but its flowers are pale yellow.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This native plant is a summer annual that becomes 2-5' tall,
branching occasionally. The round stems are glabrous and succulent,
pale green to pale reddish green, and somewhat translucent. They are
rather fragile and break easily.
Leaves: The alternate leaves are up to 5" long and 2½" across, although
they are usually about half this size. The leaves are ovate, thin-textured,
and hairless. There are low broad teeth along their margins. While the
stems are often shiny, the leaves have a dull upper surface. The slender
petioles are up to 2" long and usually shorter than the blades of the leaves.
Flowers: From the axils of the upper leaves, there occurs small clusters
of 1-3 orange flowers. These flowers are held horizontally on drooping
pedicels. Each flower is about 1" long and has a conical shape with upper
and lower lips. There are 3 sepals and 5 petals (although this is difficult to discern). Two lateral sepals are small and membrananous; they are light
green to light yellow and are located behind the upper lip. The third sepal
forms the conical posterior of the flower, including the small nectar spur.
This portion of the flower is typically light orange and shiny; the nectar
spur usually bends forward to a position underneath the rest of the flower.
The petals form the front of the flower and are usually dark orange with
reddish streaks or brown dots. One petal forms the upper lip, which is
curved upward, while 2 fused petals form the lower lip. The lower lip of-
ten is divided into 2 lobes and functions as a landing pad for visiting insects.
There are also 2 smaller lateral petals between the upper and lower lips of
the flower. A cluster of stamens with white anthers lies underneath the
ovary near the upper lip. There is no floral scent.
Fruit/Seeds: During the fall, insignificant cleistogamous flowers form
seed capsules with fertile seeds without any need for cross-pollination.
These oblong seed capsules are divided into 5 sections, which split apart,
flinging the large seeds a considerable distance.
Roots: The root system consists of a shallow branching taproot.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Spotted jewelweed propogates itself
by reseeding. This plant often forms colonies.
HABITAT TYPES: Habitats include openings in moist woodlands,
partially or lightly shaded floodplains along rivers, edges of woodland
paths, swamps, seeps and fens, and roadside ditches. This species tolerates
disturbance better than most wetland plants.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Spotted jewelweed prefers light shade
to partial sun, wet to moist conditions, and a fertile soil with an abundance
of organic material. Submergence of the roots by flood water is toler-
ated for up to 2 weeks without apparent ill-effects.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from
mid-summer to early fall, and lasts about 2 months.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Spotted jewelweed has a wide distribu-
tion throughout the United States and Canada. It occurs in all states east
of the Mississippis River and all Canadian provinces from Newfoundland
to British Columbia. It is absent only from the extreme southwestern
states and portions of the Rocky Mountain states and California. It does
occur in the Pacific northwest.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The flowers attract the ruby-throated
hummingbird and long-tongued bees, including bumblebees and honey-
bees. Swallowtail butterflies are less common visitors. These visitors seek
nectar; many long-tongued bees also collect pollen. Sometimes bumble-
bees will steal nectar by chewing holes near the spur of the flower. Various
smaller insects (e.g., Syrphid flies) will visit the same holes to steal nectar.
The caterpillars of several moths feed on the foliage, including Euchlaena
obtusaria (obtuse Euchlaena), Spilosoma latipennis (pink-legged tiger
moth), Trichodezia albovittata (white-striped black), and Xanthorhoe
lacustrata (toothed brown carpet). Upland gamebirds eat the large seeds,
including the ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasant, greater prairie chicken,
and bobwhite quail. Among mammals, white-tailed deer browse on the
foliage, while the white-footed mouse eats the seeds. The Jewelweeds have
a muciliginous sap that is supposed to soothe skin irritation caused by Poi-
son Ivy and Stinging Nettle. This sap also has fungicidal properties and
has been used to treat Athlete's Foot. The cultivated Impatiens of the horti-
cultural industry have been introduced from such areas as East Africa and
New Guinea. They rarely escape from cultivation and are not considered a significant threat to native habitats.
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