In early October, wildflowers in shades of orange-gold, yellow, purple and white light up Minnesota’s roadsides, fields, woods and riverbanks. One of my favorites is spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), or touch-me-not. Its small flowers are bright orange with red spots and are shaped like tiny funnels or cornucopias. The name jewelweed refers to the way that water droplets bead up like shiny jewels on the plant’s leaves, and also to the blossom’s jewel-like appearance. Touch-me-not refers to the ripe seed pods, which burst open and expel the seeds if touched. When our teenage son was little, we loved popping open the ripe pods and watching the seeds fly out.
Native to much of Canada and the United States, spotted jewelweed grows along streams, rivers, damp roadsides and other moist, shady spots. The one I photographed was growing in a shady wet area about four feet from the edge of the cabin road. Hummingbirds, which are attracted to the bright, red-spotted blooms, are the main pollinator of spotted jewelweed. The nectar is contained within spurs that are easily reached by the hummer’s long beak. A closely related plant is pale touch-me-not (Impatiens pallida) which is light yellow with just a few reddish-brown spots.
Related Video: Spotted jewelweed pods popping open.