By Tom Hodgson
If only they were not so delicate, the blossoms of jewelweed could make a colorful set of dangle earrings, or perhaps a charm for a bracelet, or a pendant.
They are not however, so we must enjoy them when and where we find them. This time of year, in most damp ditches or moist woodlands, you will find jewelweed in bloom.
Bright orange blossoms dangle from fragile stems on succulent plants that begin each year as tiny seeds left behind the previous fall.
In April, one may find newly sprouted jewelweed to be no more than a pair of tiny leaves hugging the damp soil. From this humble beginning, they grow to a height of three to 5 feet by August. For a couple of glorious months, we can enjoy their beauty until they are cut down by the frosts of autumn, but not before leaving seeds for the coming year.
Jewelweed blossoms are valuable nectar sources for migrating hummingbirds. They are also frequently visited by honeybees, especially in dry years when upland flowers yield very little. Native Americans used the juice from the plant as a remedy for poison ivy. Unfortunately, laboratory tests have failed to confirm these healing properties.
Jewelweed also goes by the name “touch me not.”
Its seed pods are spring loaded when ripe. The slightest touch will cause them to explode with a snap, scattering seeds for many feet in all directions. More fun than firecrackers and a lot safer.
If you cannot find jewelweed in your neighborhood, they can be seen along the boardwalk on the lowland woods trail at the Discovery Center.