What Is Impatiens Capensis?

B. Turner

Impatiens capensis is a bush-like annual plant known for its bright orange and yellow bell-shaped flowers. This plant is native to North America, and can also be found in many European nations. Many gardeners celebrate impatiens capensis for its colorful blooms, which are a favorite of hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. This species is also known as the jewelweed or touch-me-not in certain regions.

Impatiens capensis provides a natural treatment for athlete's foot.
Impatiens capensis provides a natural treatment for athlete's foot.

The sap of the impatiens capensis provides several well-documented health benefits. It offers anti-itch properties for the skin, allowing it to serve as an effective cure for poison ivy, stings, and other irritations. This plant also offers anti-fungal properties, and acts as a natural cure for athlete's foot and other fungal infections. Not all parts of the impatiens capensis plant are so helpful, however. The berries of this plant are highly toxic, and can cause severe illness or even death in young children.

Impatiens capensis will grow in any soil, including clay.
Impatiens capensis will grow in any soil, including clay.

The leaves of the impatiens capensis feature a very distinctive look, which is prized almost as much as its richly colored flowers. These leaves are very long and broad, with serrated edges, and are covered by fine hairs that give the leave a powdered or silvery look. This silvery appearance helped give this species its common name, the jewelweed. The name jewelweed may also be used to refer to the plants brightly-colored flowers.

Impatiens capensis has a thick round stem that is reddish-green is color and filled with fluid. It generally grows between 2 and 5 feet (30.5 to 152 cm) tall, and features large seed pods that burst open to scatter the seeds when touched. This unique characteristic helped to give the plant its "touch-me-not" nickname.

The flowers of the impatiens capensis grow in clusters of one, two, or three blooms. They have a conical or bell-like shape, and just three large petals each. The bright orange color of the flowers may be interrupted by red or brown speckles, streaks, or lines. Sometimes, these red and brown patches group together to give the bloom a primarily red or brown coloring that over powers the orange base tones. Impatiens capensis blooms for several months throughout the summer and autumn.

Gardeners who are interested in growing impatiens capensis will find that it thrives in many types of soil, including clay, loam, and sandy varieties. This plant requires very wet soil, and it is typically found around wetlands and swampy areas. It grows best when exposed to frequent shade, but can tolerate moderate sun exposure.

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