Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Diamonds in the Rough

Jewelweed. This is one of the first flowers on the jewelweeds that I transplanted from my parents' house this year. Jewelweed is an annual, so the plants themselves won't come back. The hope is that, if the location is good, their seeds will spread and next year I will have even more jewelweed without any work. I'll have to wait until next year to find out if my area is moist enough for them. (I'm pretty sure its shady enough).

Jewelweed. It's an interesting name to me. Jewel -- valuable, beautiful. Jewel tones are bright colors (and the flowers are bright orange). This part of the common name may refer to how the flowers hang down like pendants, or to the way water droplets sit on their leaves, or perhaps just to the treat of tiny orange dots among the solid green of the forest in mid-July. Weed -- unwanted, fast-growing. The two parts of its name juxtapose each other. Probably some people think they're undesirable, but I love jewelweed (as is obvious based on the fact that I transplanted some to my yard).

They have other names, too. Touch-me-not. Impatiens. Snapweed. Probably these other common names and the Latin genus name all refer to the fun seed dispersal methods of the plant. After flowering -- and the flowers are interesting, too... each flower has a male phase with pollen and then a female phase with an exposed pistil. The plants will have many flowers in different stages of bloom; insects will brush against the pollen when they seek nectar from a flower in its male phase, and deposit said pollen if they happen to enter a female flower. The nectar is way back there... Anyhow. After flowering, little seed pods will form. When something brushes up against a pod -- or even if a wind causes it to brush up against a leaf or stem -- it will pop open, spreading seeds everywhere. They are the ultimate poppers!

Many people know jewelweed as the poison ivy plant. The oils in the plant's stem will counteract the oils in poison ivy for some people, making it a cure for the itchiness of PI. People even say that the two tend to grow together. This is only partly true... PI tends to grow in a lot of places and be a pretty adaptable forest dweller. So near jewelweed, there is often PI. But there is also often PI where there is no jewelweed around. The truth of the matter is, where there's poison ivy, it grows near every other plant!

No comments:

Post a Comment