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Touch-Me-Not-Family

( Originally Published 1922 )



Jewel-weed; Spotted Touch-me-not; Silver Cap; Wild

Balsam; Lady's Eardrops; Snap Weed; Wild

Lady's Slipper

Impatiens biflora (I. fulva)

Flowers—Orange yellow, spotted with reddish brown, irregular, 1 in. long or less, horizontal, 2 to 4 pendent by slender footstalks on a long peduncle from leaf axils. Sepals, 3, colored; 1 large, sac-shaped, contracted into a slender incurved spur and 2-toothed at apex; 2 other sepals small. Petals, 3; 2 of them 2-cleft into dissimilar lobes; 5 short stamens, 1 pistil. Stein: 2 to 5 ft. high, smooth, branched, colored, succulent. Leaves: Alternate, thin, pale beneath, ovate coarsely toothed, petioled. Fruit: An oblong capsule, its 5 valves opening elastically to expel the seeds.

Preferred Habitat—Beside streams, ponds, ditches; moist ground.

Flowering Season—July—October.

Distribution—Nova Scotia to Oregon, south to Missouri and Florida.

These exquisite, bright flowers, hanging at a horizontal, like jewels from a lady's ear, may be responsible for the plant's folk-name; but whoever is abroad early on a dewy morning, or after a shower, and finds notched edges of the drooping leaves hung with scintillating gems, dancing, sparkling in the sunshine, sees still another reason for naming this the Jewel-weed. In a brook, pond, spring, or wayside trough, which can never be far from its haunts, dip a spray of the plant to transform the leaves into glistening silver. They shed water much as the nasturtiums do.

When the tiny ruby-throated hummingbird flashes north-ward out of the tropics to spend the summer, where can he

I hope to find nectar so deeply secreted that not even the long-tongued bumblebee may rob him of it all? Beyond the bird's bill his tongue can be run out and around curves no other creature can reach. Now the early-blooming columbine, its slender cornucopias brimming with sweets, welcomes the messenger whose needle-like bill will carry pollen from flower to flower; presently the coral honey suckle and the scarlet painted-cup attract him by wearing his favorite color; next the jewel-weed hangs horns of plenty to lure his eye; and the trumpet vine and cardinal flower continue to feed him successively in Nature's gar-den; albeit cannas, nasturtiums, salvia, gladioli, and such deep, irregular showy flowers in men's flower beds some-times lure him away.

Familiar as we may be with the nervous little seed-pods of the touch-me-not,which children ever love to pop and see the seeds fly, as they do from balsam pods in grand-mother's garden, they still startle with the suddenness of their volley. Touch the delicate hair-trigger at the end of a capsule, and the lightning response of the flying seeds makes one jump. They sometimes land four feet away. At this rate of progress a year, and with the other odds against which all plants have to contend, how many generations must it take to fringe even one mill pond with jewel-weed; yet this is rapid transit indeed compared with many of Nature's processes. The plant is a conspicuous sufferer from the dodder.

The Pale Touch-me-not (I. aurea)—I. pallida of Gray—most abundant northward, a larger, stouter species found in similar situations, but with paler yellow flowers only sparingly dotted if at all, has its broader sac-shaped sepal abruptly contracted into a short, notched, but not incurved spur. It shares its sister's popular names.



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