TOUCH-ME-NOT FAMILY - Balsaminaceae: Jewel-weed; Spotted Touch-me-not; Silver Cap; Wild Balsam; Lady's Eardrops; Snap Weed; Wild Lady's Slipper

Impatiens biflora (I. fulva)

Flowers--Orange yellow, spotted with reddish brown, irregular, 1 in. long or less, horizontal, 2 to 4 pendent by slender footstalks on a long peduncle from leaf axils. Sepals, 3, colored; 1 large, sac-shaped, contracted into a slender incurved spur and 2-toothed at apex; 2 other sepals small. Petals, 3; 2 of them 2-cleft into dissimilar lobes; 5 short stamens, 1 pistil. Stem: 2 to 5 ft. high, smooth, branched, colored, succulent. Leaves: Alternate, thin, pale beneath, ovate coarsely toothed, petioled. Fruit: An oblong capsule, its 5 valves opening elastically to expel the seeds.

Preferred Habitat--Beside streams, ponds, ditches; moist ground.

Flowering Season--July-October.

Distribution--Nova Scotia to Oregon, south to Missouri and Florida.

These exquisite, bright flowers, hanging at a horizontal, like jewels from a lady's ear, may be responsible for the plant's folk-name; but whoever is abroad early on a dewy morning, or after a shower, and finds notched edges of the drooping leaves hung with scintillating gems, dancing, sparkling in the sunshine, sees still another reason for naming this the Jewel-weed. In a brook, pond, spring, or wayside trough, which can never be far from its haunts, dip a spray of the plant to transform the leaves into glistening silver. They shed water much as the nasturtiums do.

When the tiny ruby-throated humming bird flashes northward out of the tropics to spend the summer, where can he hope to find nectar so deeply secreted that not even the long-tongued bumblebee may rob him of it all? Beyond the bird's bill his tongue can be run out and around curves no other creature can reach. Now the early-blooming columbine, its slender cornucopias brimming with sweets, welcomes the messenger whose needle-like bill will carry pollen from flower to flower; presently the coral honeysuckle and the scarlet painted-cup attract him by wearing his favorite color; next the jewel-weed hangs horns of plenty to lure his eye; and the trumpet vine and cardinal flower continue to feed him successively in Nature's garden; albeit cannas, nasturtiums, salvia, gladioli, and such deep, irregular showy flowers in men's flower beds sometimes lure him away.

Familiar as we may be with the nervous little seed-pods of the touch-me-not, which children ever love to pop and see the seeds fly, as they do from balsam pods in grandmother's garden, they still startle with the suddenness of their volley. Touch the delicate hair-trigger at the end of a capsule, and the lightning response of the flying seeds makes one jump. They sometimes land four feet away. At this rate of progress a year, and with the other odds against which all plants have to contend, how many generations must it take to fringe even one mill pond with jewel-weed; yet this is rapid transit indeed compared with many of Nature's processes. The plant is a conspicuous sufferer from the dodder.
 

The Pale Touch-me-not (I. aurea)--I. pallida of Gray--most abundant northward, a larger, stouter species found in similar situations, but with paler yellow flowers only sparingly dotted if at all, has its broader sac-shaped sepal abruptly contracted into a short, notched, but not incurved spur. It shares its sister's popular names.