Impatiens capensis Meerb. - Touch-me-not

Impatiens capensis plant

Family - Balsaminaceae

Stems - To 1.5m tall, branching above, erect, herbaceous, easily broken, succulent, glabrous, somewhat glaucous, hollow when larger.

Leaves - Alternate, petiolate. Petiole to +/-5cm long, glabrous. Blade ovate to elliptic, shallow serrate, to 10cm long, +/-5cm broad, somewhat glaucous. Teeth of blade with whitish mucro at apex.

Impatiens capensis leaves

Inflorescence - Clusters of 1-3 pedicillate flowers from leaf axils. Pedicels to 3cm long, sometimes with one or two small scale-like bracts.

Flowers - Petals 5, appearing as only 3 petals because of the union of the lateral petals, orange-yellow. Sepals 3, orange-yellow. Larger sepal with spur to +1mm long. Stamens 5, connate around stigma. Pistil 1. Ovary 5-locular. Capsules exploding(elastically dehiscent) when touched, to 3cm long, 1cm wide.

Impatiens capensis flowerFlower.

Impatiens capensis flowerAgain.

Flowering - May - October.

Habitat - Moist ground, low woods, slopes, stream banks, ravines.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - Everyone loves to play with the elastically dehiscent seed pods of this plant and it's relative I. pallida Nutt. The pods give a little "pop" when touched, and the seeds fly a pretty good distance. The stems of the plant are easily broken and contain a highly mucilaginous fluid which is supposed to remedy skin irritations caused by other plants. How convenient that this species shares the same habitat as the "Stinging Nettles" (Urtica and Laportea).
In case you're wondering, this is the same genus as the common cultivated Impatiens seen at nearly every garden shop. Few people notice that the flowers of those plants are also spurred like I. capensis.

Photographs taken in Brown Summit, NC., 7-15-02.


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