Is it pallida or is it capensis?

JewelweedThe above photo shows a modest-sized stand of Jewelweed (Impatiens spp.) mid-way through its growing season.  The question is . . . is it Impatiens pallida (Pale jewelweed) or Impatiens capensis (Spotted jewelweed)?

Let’s simply look at the Impatiens genus as a whole — starting when it first pops up in the spring.

JewelweedA short time later, it develops its first set of true leaves.

JewelweedAnd here’s a healthy young plant.  You can probably guess that the leaf arrangement is opposite — just as we saw with the newly sprouted Jewelweed.

JewelweedNow we’re going to look more closely at specific parts of a Jewelweed plant.  The underside of the leaf (on the left below) is lighter in color.  It is very easy to see the pinnate venation both on the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf.  You can also see the coarsely toothed leaf margin.

JewelweedIn this closer view of the growing tip of the plant, notice the beaded moisture on the leaves.  This is one of the suggested reasons for the plant’s common name.  Water on the plant looks like “jewels.”

JewelweedThe lower leaves are clearly arranged oppositely along the stem.

Jewelweed Jewelweed’s stem has a translucent quality to it.

JewelweedThe stem feels quite “juicy” although, when it is broken, it turns out to be hollow.

JewelweedJewelweed’s skimpy and shallow roots (considering the overall height of the plant) are easily pulled from the damp soil — Jewelweed’s preferred growing environment.

JewelweedHere’s another patch of Jewelweed — in bloom.  And now we can conclusively identify this particular group of plants as Impatiens pallida.

JewelweedPale jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) blooms with yellow flowers.

JewelweedSpotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) has orange flowers.

JewelweedJewelweed flowers are “irregular” — or “bilateral” — in shape.  Check out the flower’s spur as well as its two sepals.

JewelweedAahh. . . Jewelweed’s seed pod . . .

JewelweedAnother common name for Jewelweed is Touch-me-not.  Gently grasp one of the mature seed pods between fingers and thumb.  You can feel the pod spring apart and coil up between your fingers.

JewelweedIf you weren’t holding onto the seed pod, the seeds would jump through the air for dispersal quite some distance from the plant.  Touching those ripe seed pods — and watching the plant’s swift reaction with its throwing of the seeds — is fun to do.

Here is a close view of Jewelweed’s seeds and the remnants of the seed pod.

JewelweedBack to our original question . . . how can you tell the difference between the two Jewelweeds?  You’ll have to wait for the plant to bloom and then you’ll know for sure whether it is Pale jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) or Spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).

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12 Responses to Is it pallida or is it capensis?

  1. Jane says:

    I’ve seen bees chew a hole in the pointy end of the “trumpet” to get at the nectar without pushing into the tunnel.
    My kids once offered a carefully picked and carried pair of seedpods to their schoolbus driver. Made her jump!

  2. Steve Young says:

    You can tell them apart in leaf too. Capensis has 9 or fewer teeth per side of leaf margin and pallida has 10 or more teeth.

  3. Richard D. says:

    I just read that you can use Jewelweed if your skin has been irritated by poison oak/ivy/sumac. It is also good for insect bites. Just break the stem open and rub the moisture from inside on the skin. Anyway, thanks for the free information on the plant.

  4. Ted says:

    Thanks for the walk in the woods! what is the name for pink face and white trumpet.

    • Angelyn says:

      I do not know exactly what plants you are referring to as “pink face” and “white trumpet.” When I wonder what the scientific name is for a plant, I do an Internet search on the common name and add the words “scientific name” to the search. For example, you could search on “white trumpet scientific name.” Usually, I can find my answer that way and can check the photos of the plant to be sure it is the plant I’ve seen.

    • Cynthia says:

      Impatiens glandulifera might be what you mean – looks like the above flowers, but in pink and white.

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  7. Ronald G Cox says:

    This weed is great for poison ivy, oak and sumac!

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