Jewelweed
Inside the Outdoors, July 03,
2015

While preparing to write about one plant that often attacks me this time of year – poison ivy – an old time favorite, not, I stumbled upon an article on Jewelweed and was intrigued by what I read.

In addition to Googling the plant, I decided to dig out one of my favorite books titled Wildflowers of Pennsylvania, written by Mary Joy Haywood, RSM, Ph.D., and Phyllis Testal Monk, M. Ed. and pass along the information that they put in print referencing this species.

This is what they wrote:

Jewelweed is also called Spotted Touch-me-not. It is characterized by “Crimson-spotted orange flowers are 0.7 to 1.3 inches long and are cornucopia. They have two lobed petals below, a right angled spur, and sac-like pedals. The leaves are oval, coarsely toothed, and alternate. A freely branching, translucent, succulent annual, the stem may be 0.5-inch thick and up to 8 feet tall. When water collects on the leaves, the rounded droplets shine in the sunlight like diamonds. The bland, watery sap from the stem is said to have fungicidal properties, and may relieve toxic reaction to poison ivy if applied promptly. This plant grows in all wet soil, shaded woodlands, and in sub-acid swamps throughout Pennsylvania,” they said.

Jewelweed is best known for its skin healing properties. The leaves and the juice from the stem of Jewelweed are used by herbalists as a treatment for poison ivy, poison oak and other plant induced rashes, as well as many other types of dermatitis. Jewelweed works by counter-reacting with chemicals in other plants that cause irritation. Poultices and salves from Jewelweed are a folk remedy for bruises, burns, cuts, eczema, insect bites, sores, sprains, warts and ringworm.

Having Loyalhanna Creek run through growing city of opportunities, many of us who have walked along the waters’ edge may have encountered this plant and not even known it. As the website states, “There is plenty of Jewelweed in the wild and it’s not hard to find once you learn to identify it.

Some people have stated that, according to www.poison-ivy.org that poison ivy grows alongside poison ivy. But according to one unnamed individual, this is not true. However, on the other hand, according to the website, the two plants have been found to do just that, grow together, so it is what it is, either or.

From another website, www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants, I allege that Steve Brill may have written the following content when he noted, “Although this isn’t one of my favorite wild foods, it’s one of our most important herbs. I call it the forageris American Express, because I never leave home without it.”

He described it as succulent, translucent, unbranched stalk and the pair of rounded, notched leaves.

As with most species and/ or flowery plants, it’s easy to recognize once one knows what to look for. Isn’t that the way it is with most plants? If one knows and recognizes the leaves and flowers, identification should soon follow.

Older Jewelweed plants take on another appearance. “The paired, elliptical, coarsely toothed (serrated) leaves of this older shoot are typical of the plant,” he said.

Here’s something interesting. Brill said, “There is a waxy coating on the leaf that repels water, forcing it into spherical shape.”

He went on to state, “If you submerge the leaves in water, their undersides will turn silvery, delighting children of all ages.”

In describing the petals, the expert stated, “The trumpet-shaped flowers, which bloom from early summer to fall, are under one-inch long, with three petals, one which curls, to form a long slipper-or-sack-shaped spur.

This is fascinating, as well.

According to Brill, “If you break Jewelweed’s stem and repeatedly apply the juice to a fresh mosquito bite for 15 to 20 minutes, the itching stops and the bite doesn’t swell. For older bites, it only works temporarily.’

There’s more!

“Jewelweed’s juice also relieves bee and wasp stings, although it doesn’t always cure them completely.”

“If you accidentally touch poison ivy and apply Jewelweed juice to the affected area before the rash appears, you probably won’t get the rash.”

He concluded, “The Indians treat already-developed poison ivy rash by rubbing Jewelweed’s broken stem on the rash until it draws some blood. The rash then draws out, a scab forms, and healing occurs.

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If any of my readers need a little help in locating Jewelweed, stop over at Keystone State Park, Derry Township, and look up Jordon Duvall. He is the new environmental education specialist replacing Pam McQuistian. Coming to his new post from OhioPyle State Park, we all look forward to working with him and learning all about the great outdoors. He has already made himself know on Facebook by his postings of park activities. Welcome aboard, Jordon!


- Paul J. Volkmann
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