Orange Jewelweed

When most people talk about Impatiens, they’re referring to Impatiens walleriana hybrids, which are popular shade annuals.  I didn’t know of any wild Impatiens until I came across this plant a few weeks ago on a walk in Pennsylvania:

Impatiens capensis

Impatiens capensis

The flowers are quite different from any other Impatiens I’ve seen, but the leaves and watery, almost translucent stems along with the wet, shaded habitat immediately made me think of Impatiens.  My plant ecologist host confirmed that it was indeed an Impatiens and that the common name was Orange Jewelweed.  I was quite thrilled with my botanical prowess for the rest of the day.


  1. Mary says:

    Neat! Is this the same jewelweed that’s supposed to offer a remedy for poison ivy?

  2. Pat says:

    Did you taste the sugary droplets from the extrafloral nectaries on the leaf, so clear in the photo?

    Were there ripe seedpods to explode with a touch?

    Our local invasive Impatiens in the UK is from the Himalayas and has colonised huge areas of riversides. Popularly known as Policemen’s Helmets, the seeds can be thrown 22ft on explosion.

    Spectacular but depressing. You might feel the same about the Purple Loosestrife we donated to the Americas.

    • sarcozona says:

      I didn’t know those were extrafloral nectaries!!! That’s really cool – do you know who they’re attracting?

      And I couldn’t find any seedpods – I wish I had, now that I know they explode!

      It’s odd to think of a beloved native as an invasive in someone else’s backyard. I read that Orange Jewelweed has naturalized in England, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and Finland, but doesn’t seem to be a particularly aggressive invader, than goodness.

  3. Christina says:

    I used to see a lot of these in NC, but I didn’t know they were a kind of Impatiens. Here in NY, I’ve only seen yellow jewelweed. They’re quite abundant at the farm where I work. When I was little my dad showed me how the seed pods explode when you touch them, and now I can’t pass a jewelweed by without grabbing at it 🙂

    • sarcozona says:

      I never saw them growing up in Caswell County 🙁 Where do you remember seeing them?

      Do you know if the yellow jewelweed you have on the farm is Impatiens pallida or the rare form of I. capensis?

      • Christina says:

        There are some in my parents’ yard in Durham and I know I’ve seen them a lot elsewhere in the Triangle–maybe along the Eno? I can’t recall 🙁

        The flowers at the farm are bright yellow and without spots, so I’m guessing they’re I. pallida, but I’m not really sure. I don’t have a good plant field guide and I haven’t found any pictures of the rarer yellow form of I. capensis. The photos I’ve seen of I. pallida seem to show a paler yellow than what I’m seeing, but otherwise look right.

  4. Pat says:

    I haven’t seen Orange Jewelweed here but I think it is mainly in the South as yet. At only 5ft it isn’t so obvious, of course :0)

    Encouraging ant protection is the usual reason for extrafloral nectaries. Why protect aphids when you can cut out the middleman?

  5. What a coincidence, I just wrote about these today! I love this plant.
    Here’s a link to my post about jewel-weed : The Book of Impatiens

    Take care!
    Purple Carrots and Fairy Smoke

  1. […] Sarcozona of Gravity’s Rainbow saw a wild Impatiens with an unusually looking flower – Orange Jewelweed. […]

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