Impatiens capensis Meerburgh
The words or terms in red
(actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a
Impatiens capensis is a summer
annual plant with an attractive bloom, that
is native to North America.
Its root system consists of a shallow branching
The plant often forms large and dense colonies by reseeding itself.
Impatiens capensis was described and illustrated by Nicolas Meerburgh
around the 1770. It belongs to the
In Latin the word impatiens is formed from the privative or negative
prefix in to mean the absence, the lack of and from the patiens
the present participle of the verb patior that means to endure,
to suffer, that participle being used as an adjective to mean
impatient, referring to the explosive action of fruits to disperse
As far as the epithet is concerned, it
means Of the Cape, and is a misnomer, as Nicolaas Meerburgh was under
the mistaken impression that it was native to the Cape of Good Hope, in
Nicolaas Meerburgh (1734-1814) was a Dutch botanist and curator of the Leiden
Botanical Garden from 1774-1814; he was well known and an important figure in
Dutch gardening circles in the late eighteenth century; he was also a good
Leiden is a city, municipality an university town in the province of
South Holland in the Netherlands and has around 120 000 inhabitants.
Some of the vernacular names of
Impatiens capensis are Orange Jewelweed, Common Jewelweed,
Spotted Jewelweed, Spotted Touch-me-not, Speckled Touch-me-not, Wild
Orange Touch-me-not, Snapweed and Orange Balsam.
The French vernacular names are Impatiente du Cap and
Impatiens capensis has also been known as:
- Impatiens biflora Walter
- Impatiens capensis Meerb. f. immaculata
(Weath.) Fernald & B. G. Schub.
- Impatiens fulva Nutt.
- Impatiens noli-tangere L. ssp. biflora (Walter) Hultén
- Impatiens nortonii Rydb.
Impatiens capensis is quite easy to identify with its:
Impatiens pallida is similar, but its flowers are solid yellow and the
larger leaves have more regularly toothed
- orange funnel shaped flowers with red-brown spots;
- spur on the flowers,
bent underneath and parallel to the flowers;
- oval, coarsely toothed leaves;
- succulent stems.
- erect, up to 1.5 m tall;
- branching above;
- somewhat translucent;
- with swollen or darkened nodes.
The caterpillars of several moths feed on the
foliage, including Euchlaena obtusaria (the Obtuse Euchlaena),
Spilosoma latipennis (the Pink-Legged Tiger Moth),
Trichodezia albovittata (the White-Striped Black), and
Xanthorhoe lacustrata (the Toothed Brown Carpet).
- with a petiole about 2 inches long;
- with a blade ovate to
- with shallow serrate margins,
the teeth of blade with whitish
- with the upper surface green and the lower surface paler and often
- with the base cuneate to rounded;
- up to 10 cm long and about 5 cm wide.
The flowers attract Archilochus colubris (the Ruby-Throated
Hummingbird) and long-tongued bees,
including Bombus spp. (bumblebees) and
Apis mellifera (honeybees).
Butterflies of the Papilionidae family (the Swallow Tail
butterflies) are less common visitors.
These visitors seek the nectar of the
flowers or the pollen.
Sometimes bumblebees will steal nectar by chewing holes near the spur
of the flower. Various smaller insects, e.g. insects from the
Syrphidae family (the Syrphid flies) will visit the
same holes to steal nectar.
- in a cluster of 1 to 3 in the leaves
- on a pedicel up to 3 cm long;
- about one inch long;
- orange-yellow with reddish streaks or brown dots;
- with a 5 petals appearing as only 3 because of the union of the
lateral petals (this is difficult to discern);
- with one petal forming the upper lip
which is curved upward, while 2 fused petals form the lower lip
that often is divided into 2 lobes
that function as a landing pad for visiting insects;
- with a three sepals,
the larger one, orange-yellow, forming a hooked conical
spur that curves forward and under,
spur holding nectar,
spur at the back of the flower;
- with 5 stamens;
- with a single pistil;
- with a superior ovary of
- blooming from mid-July in my area, 25 km North of Montréal.
When ripe, the pods explode out when they are lightly touched,
ejecting the seeds, hence one of the vernacular names: Touch-me-not.
- many seeded pendant, club shaped
- elastically dehiscent
along 5 lines to release the seeds;
- from 10 to 20 mm long.
Impatiens capensis is common in bottomland soils, along
creeks, in openings in moist woodlands, in partially or lightly shaded
floodplains, along rivers, edges of woodland paths, in swamps, seeps and fens,
and roadside ditches. It tolerates disturbance better than most wetland plants.
Impatiens capensis is found in the eastern half of North America
as a native species, and in the western provinces of Canada and in some western
American states as an introduced species.
The map shows the Canadian provinces and Territories as well as the USA
states where the plant can be found.
Bonasa umbellus (the
Ruffed Grouse), Phasianus colchicus (the Common Pheasant
also named the Ring-Necked Pheasant), Tympanuchus cupido
(the Greater Prairie Chicken), as well as Colinus virginianus
(the Northern Bobwhite also named the Virginia Quail or the
Bobwhite Quail) as well as some other bird species
and Peromyscus leucopus (the White-Footed Mouse) eat the seeds.
Among mammals, Odocoileus virginianus (the White-Tailed Deer)
browse on the foliage.
Impatiens capensis was transported in the 19th and 20th by humans to
England, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Finland, and potentially
other areas of Northern and Central Europe, where these
naturalized populations persist in the
absence of any common cultivation by people.
Along with other Impatiens species
Impatiens capensis is a traditional remedy for skin rashes, although
controlled studies have not shown efficacy for this purpose.
Impatiens capensis was commonly used as remedy by native American tribes,
The Cherokees used it as dermatological aid; they rubbed the juice on the skin
Toxicodendron radicans (Poison Ivy) to no effect ? They
made an infusion of the roots and used it for babies with
They drank an infusion of leaves against measles.
Their women took a decoction of stems to ease childbirth.
The Chippewas applied a poultice
bruised stems to rashes or other skin troubles.
The Iroquois used a decoction of plants as a wash for
took an infusion of roots to increase urination and for
stricture. They applied a poultice
of smashed stems to sore or raw eyelids and took a cold infusion of plants
against fever, for kidney problems and
The Malecites used an infusion of leaves against jaundice.
The Meskwakis applied a poultice of fresh plant to sores and used the juice
for nettle stings. The Mohegans, the Penobscots and the Nanticokes used a
compound of buds and rum as ointment for burns or applied to them a poultice
of crushed buds. They would also apply a poultice of crushed flower buds to
cuts and bruises. The Ojibwa rubbed the juice of of fresh plant on the head
against headaches. The Omahas applied a poultice of crushed stems and leaves
to the skin for rashes and eczema.
The Potawatomis took an infusion of whole plants for stomach cramps and used
it as a liniment for soreness. They used the juice of the plant
as a wash on nettle stings or Toxicodendron radicans (Poison Ivy)
rash. They used a decoction of plants as a liniment for sprains, bruises,
soreness and for chest cold. The Shinnecocks used the plant as dermatological
aid; they make a salve with the buds.
The Menominees, Potawatomis and Ojibwas used the whole plant to make an
orange yellow dye.
Finally the Cherokees used the plant as an ingredient of their
Green Corn (ritual practices) ceremonies, dances and festivals.
The photos of the gallery were taken either with one of the following:
Minolta DiMAGE 7, Canon PowerShot A530,
Canon Xt Rebel, usually with the EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM objective,
Fujifilm A 610 and EPSON Perfection 1650 (scanner).
The title in the window shows the date when the picture was taken,
i.e. jan_30_06... would mean that the photo was taken on the 30th of
January, the 06 is for the 6th picture taken that day.
The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter which I use
to identify the system used to take the picture.
Click on the thumbnails to get larger view.
The original photos are usually in TIFF format,
the photos shown are generally in JPEG format,
often of reduced dimensions (to fit in a 1600 by 1200 pixels display while
leaving a bit of margin) for loading time reduction.
The picture just left is that of small plants at the beginning of their growth.