Orange Jewelweed is an annual wildflower that has beautiful orange trumpet/bugle shaped flowers and grows well in the shade. I first learned of this plant in my youth when my Uncle showed me it’s translucent stalk, and how it can be used for treating nettle stings and bug bites.
Jewelweed can become prolific in shady moist areas. Also known as Touch-Me-Not as the seed capsules will burst when touched, flinging seed far and wide. Blooming generally begins sometime in June and typically will continue through August, lasting for around 2 months or until frost.
Jewelweed is native to almost all of North America and Canada, with the exception of AZ/NM/UT/NV/WY/MT. So, it is extremely common.
As an annual, the plant will die each winter. New plants will grow from seeds that germinate in cool soil in the Spring
Although research has shown no benefits for poison ivy rash. But, it won’t hurt to try to use it…
Jewelweed can out-compete Garlic Mustard in moist/shady conditions, suppressing this horrible invasive plant!
Thick colonies of Jewelweed can form, and suppress undesirable invasive plants/weeds
Quick Reference Table
Do Jewelweed Seed Capsules Explode?
Pretty much. Well, what happens is the capsule will form and then dry out. As it dries out, the walls (which are really valves holding water) of the capsules will build tension. Eventually the tension is released and the seeds are launched. Wellesley College did some research and calculated that seeds should be able to travel over 1.5 m from the plant!
Jewelweed can form thick colonies in good conditions, and if it has been left alone for many years. It will grow to a height of 2-5′. Research has found that it will grow taller if competition is present.
Stalk / Stem
Generally there is a single stalk per plant and may have some branching. The stems of Jewel weed are almost translucent and shiny in Spring and early Summer, round and smooth.
Stems of Jewelweed hold a liquid and can be broken quite easily. This allows you to rub the end of the stem on a bug bite or nettle sting to provide some relief. I have done this myself many times, and it seems to help make nettles stop itching,
The leaves on Jewelweed are alternate along the stalk, and anywhere from 2-5″ long (5-12 cm) by 1/2 as wide. They are ovate, almost spade shaped. The edges are scalloped or serrated with large teeth.
There are generally a single flower growing from the uppermost leaves, and orange in color. You often find the petals have dark orange specks/spots on them. Individual blooms are approximately 1″ long. The flowers resemble bugles and are shaped like a cone that curves at the tip. This curl/curve or spur is where the nectar is located. Thus, only long-tongue bees, hummingbirds and butterflies can reach the nectar.
Seed capsules will eventually form in the fall. These capsules are oblong and when opened, split apart throwing seed. This allows Jewelweed to make colonies in proper growing conditions, as the seed dispersal is quite efficient.
Jewel weed will have a short taproot.
Jewelweed will grow best in fertile soil with plenty of organic matter. For moisture, Jewelweed prefers medium to moist soil, and can survive occasional flooding of short duration. It does not do well in a dry area.
For sun exposure, most references you find state that Jewelweed likes partial shade. However, I can tell you from personal experience that I have witnessed this plant in all manners of sun exposure. I’ve seen growing on exposed river banks (moist soil, no shade), and I’ve seen it in canopied forest (full shade, med-moisture). But most often I do find it in a part-sun/shade area.
How to care for
If you have the proper growing conditions, Jewelweed will not require care. It is a native plant that will not require special fertilizers.
If you grow Jewelweed, be aware that it can be colony forming. If you have one plant, you will likely have more within a couple of years.
How to Establish Jewelweed
You probably won’t be able to find Jewelweed at a nursery, as it is an annual with a difficult germination process. So, it is best to attempt to collect seed from mature plants. Placing a bag over the plant or seed capsule can help prevent loss of seed when the pods burst.
Growing Jewelweed from seed
But after collecting seed, immediately scatter it in a moist/shady area that you would like Jewelweed to grow. Jewelweed seed can not be allowed to dry out, or it will lose its viability. And hopefully 18 months later you will have some seeds germinate. This seeds prefers to germinate in colder temperatures, so planting directly outside is likely best.
What’s that? 18 months??? Yup – seeds from Jewelweed often need a cold/moist stratification period, followed by a warm/moist period. Then another cold/moist period – aka 2X stratification. Although, I’ve found some older research that shows it can be done in one winter.
Of course, you could try to simulate this on your own. I would suggest mixing seed with moist sand in a zip-lock bag and storing in the refrigerator for 2 months. Then, place the bag on a low-grade heat source for a couple months, or even just try to keep it at room temp. Afterwards, place it back into the refrigerator for several months more. Finally, plant it outside.
In my opinion, it is just easier to plant outside right after collecting the seed.
Garden Uses for Jewelweed
There are a few obvious uses for Jewelweed – namely that of a rain garden, shade garden, or along a pond/stream. It will do well in disturbed areas too.
Hummingbirds, bumblebees, and butterflies will visit the flowers. Several different moth caterpillars eat the foliage.
Seeds from Jewelweed are eaten by a variety of birds and mammals. Quali, Pheasants, Grouse, and field mice will all eat the seeds. Deer do browse the foliage as well.
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