Nature's Itch Remedy
A plant the benefits us and the ecosystem
By Sam Nunes, Environmental Educator
What do you call a plant that has beneficial properties, provides food for many different species, and different colored flowers for extra beauty? Well, Jewelweed of course! September is the month when their beautiful yellow or orange flowers bloom. Jewelweed has a very unique method of seed dispersal: their seed pods burst open to spread the seeds out. This is how it got the nickname Touch-me-not. It’s possible to flick or burst them yourselves which is a source of entertainment for people of all ages.
How does Jewelweed benefit wildlife?
The flower, or spur, houses the nectar which is 40% sugar. Their primary pollinator is the Ruby Throated Hummingbird, whose long beak can reach into the long spurs to drink the nectar and also pick up some pollen. Insects who can’t reach into the spurs sometimes burrow through the sides. Jewelweed is considered a high reward plant, meaning it provides more energy content than other sources of nectar to those who consume it. This means Jewelweed plays an important environmental role for insects and hummingbirds as temperatures start to decline.
This beneficial plant is a food sources for many animals. Small rodents and insects eat the seeds after they’ve burst out of their pods. White-tailed deer, snowshoe hares, and even black bears have been known to eat the whole plant.
How does Jewelweed benefit us?
The whole plant can be crushed in your hands and applied to areas covered with poison ivy and poison sumac to reduce and, if applied early enough, even prevent the rash and itchiness. If you already feel itchy, Jewelweed can still reduce the itchiness. This also works with mosquito bites! If you’re unlucky enough to get poison ivy, Jewelweed will be an invaluable companion.
Jewelweed can be found around shady, wet areas near streams, rivers, and ponds. The plant can only withstand temperatures above 40oF so make sure you find them before the temperature starts dropping!
Holland, Mary. Naturally Curious . North Pomfret: Trafalgar Square Books, 2010.