jewelweed, common name for the Balsaminaceae, a family of widely distributed annual and perennial herbs. The principal genus is Impatiens, so named because of the sudden bursting of the mature seed capsules when touched. It is found in tropical and north temperate regions and is especially abundant and diverse in the mountains of India and Sri Lanka. A few species are commonly cultivated as ornamentals, e.g., the garden balsam (I. balsamina). I. noli-me-tangere, ranging from Europe to Japan, is the species most often called touch-me-not. The native American species (two in the East, three in the far West, and one in Central America) are known as jewelweeds, snapweeds, and touch-me-nots, the names being used interchangeably and sometimes applied to the whole genus. They grow in damp, shady places. The orange or yellow flowers dangle from the branches and have spurs filled with nectar that attracts bumblebees and hummingbirds. The orange sap is a traditional remedy for poison ivy and has also been used as a dye. Water on the leaves produces a silvery sheen that gives these plants the local name silverleaf. The jewelweed family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Geraniales.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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