As the name suggests, many people consider jewelweed to be a weed. I consider it a beautiful wildflower, prized by pollinators. Over the years I have encouraged them in my yard. Right now, I have two species in flower. The spotted jewelweed shown in this photo with a fly visitor is more common. The pale jewelweed does not form the same large patches, mainly growing singly or with just a few in any given spot. The jewel part of the name comes from its ability to bead raindrops on the leaves where they shine like jewels in the sunlight.
Another of its many common names, touch-me-not, is impossible to achieve. The name is like a dare since it is completely irresistible to touch the pods of this plant. My dad pointed out to me the joy of jewelweed when I was very young. If the seed pod is ripe, the slightest touch catapults seeds up to ten feet away in a very dramatic explosion. The first time he showed this magic to me, I spent the rest of our walk searching them out and in my own way serving as a seed disperser. I have enjoyed this ever since, always happy to play with this natural toy. The genus name, Impatiens, refers to these impatient seeds.
The showy flowers are pollinated by an assortment of animals. In my yard ruby-throated hummingbirds are frequent flower visitors, defending larger patches against other birds, butterflies and sometimes even me. When I walk by a large patch, I sometimes see one hovering nearby, escorting me away from its prize. They are also visited by smaller creatures like bees, wasps, and flies. They are at their peak now, though straggler flowers continue blooming into autumn.
Although my garden is now beginning a slow decline toward the quiet of winter, these exuberant blossoms still provide an abundant nectar harvest for many wildlife visitors. A large patch I pass every time I take the path from my yard into the forest tempts me to touch the endlessly fresh ripe pods. It has never been more fun to be a seed disperser. For at least another month these will ensure my entertainment and the expansion of my jewelweed patches.