Friday, July 11, 2008

Debunking Touch Me Not! (and a few other things)

Today's photo is a touch-me-not, also known as jewelweed. Last year I remember posting a photo of a spotted touch-me-not flower. This one does not have any spots and may be a different variety. Whenever I see the spotted touch-me-not, the spots are pretty noticeable, which as you can see in today's photo, aren't in this plant or the ones that were around it.

Touch-me-nots are so named because when you touch them, them fall apart, often into a kind of gelatinous mass, which appeals to children once they get past the gooiness of it all.

Most of the information I've found about jewelweed or touch-me-not is about what it is not. It's not a good remedy for poison ivy, but in times past people thought it was. There's even an old saying, "Wherever poison ivy is found, jewelweed grows close by." Even the saying is wrong, apparently. Touch-me-not prefers to grow in disturbed areas, preferably ones tending to shade and thrives in spots with a limestone-rich soil. Poison ivy isn't that picky.

Touch-me-not is a member of the impatiens family and whether because of that or whether because of its now-debunked anti-itch properties, this was a plant that was taken back to Europe after settlers arrived in the New World. That's quite a switch, as I've too often found wildflowers I've assumed to be natives only to discovered they were introduced from Europe. Apparently touch-me-not can still be found there, though it hasn't hybridized with any of their native plants.

Question: is it just me, or do American goldfinches appear to be dispersing earlier than usual? I think of August as the time when goldfinches are "vacationing" and traveling around, but they seem to be starting their travels early this year.

And in late news, Derby Hill, a prime spring hawkwatching spot along Lake Ontario in New York, reported 40 northbound Broad-winged hawks on Tuesday. I had to read the report a couple of times before the information was successfully implanted in my brain. I kept trying to turn the birds into south-bound or fall migrants. The birds were either migrating or dispersing north ahead of a front and were clearly kettling and streaming.


Cathy said...

I thought Touch Me Not got it's name from the seed pod? When you touch them when they fully grown, they explode.

Jennifer said...

Oh dear... I had not heard that Jewelweed as a Poison Ivy remedy had been de-bunked... and I just posted that it can be helpful... (I think any juice that helps wash the oil off might help...)

Regarding goldfinches, I've just noticed ours getting frisky, if you know what I mean!

Carolyn H said...

Jennifer: I was surprised, too. The information I used was pretty specific, though, and reported that several studies failed to find any anti-itch properties in the plant at all.

Carolyn H.

Seabrooke said...

I had the same thought as Cathy, as far as where the name of touch-me-not came from, though I can't say where I got that from. I love to go through a patch of the plants once the seed pods are mature and explode them all.

The goldfinches ought to be settling down to nest right about now. They're late nesters, 'cause they like to wait for the thistles and other flowers to go to seed - they use the thistle down in their nests, and use the seeds to feed their young. July and August are their main nesting months.

Ruth said...

The Jewelweed's cousin, Himalayan balsam or Policeman's Helmet is a non-native invasive weed along our rivers. It has the same exploding seed pods. They are 4-6 feet high and I pull up any I see. The roots are very shallow.