The family Balsaminaceae A. Rich

Remark The words or terms in red (actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a glossary.

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Plants belonging to the Balsaminaceae family are annual or perennial and herbaceous. They generally have translucent stems often rooting at lower nodes. The flowers are hermaphrodite, protandrous and zygomorphic. They have 3 or 5 sepals the lowermost being large and spurred; they have 5 petals and 5 stamens. The anthers are adnate and form a hood around the ovary. Their pollination is entomophilous.

There are two genera in the family and around 900 species all but one species belong to Impatiens genus. The genus Hydrocera with a single species, Hydrocera triflora, is only found in India and South-East Asia. All Impatiens species have their lateral petals united in pairs and their fruit is a valvate, fleshy, capsule. The fruits explode when touched flinging seeds outward. All the petals of Hydrocera triflora are free, and its fruits is an indehiscent pseudo-berries.

The plants are found throughout temperate and tropical regions, including North America, Asia, Europe but mainly in tropical and subtropical Africa. In North America, one find 11 species, all of them obviously in the Impatiens genus. Four of theses species are also found in Québec, they are :


The family name seems to come from the vernacular name of species of the Impatiens genus, that have Balsamine as vernacular name. This vernacular name come form the Latin balsaminus that means balsamic; in Latin, balsamum is the balsam and comes from the classical Greek βαλσαμον (balsamon); balsam is the generic name of small trees that produce balm : aromatic. fragrant, resinous substances, often of medicinal value. The Impatiens species with a Balsamine vernacular name are fragrant, and since Impatiens is essentially the genus of the Balsaminaceae family, the Balsamine vernacular name was the root of the family name. And, « Si non è vero è ben trovato ».


Several Impatiens species are cultivated for their showy flowers.

The family has been previously known as the Hydroceraceae and as the Impatientaceae family.