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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - July 03, 2009

From: Beaumont, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification called Touch-Me-Not, Impatiens sp.
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: My grandmother used to have a bed of plants that would come up every year that she called "Touch Me Nots". The flower was about 1 1/2" across, orangey with flat green leaves, bushy characteristic. The plant would develop fuzzy green "pods" which when ripe, would explode open when squeezed, thus propagating the ground with more plants. The seeds were very small, brown and round. After she died, I never saw the plant again and didn't think to harvest seeds to put in my own yard. Someone told me this might be in the impatiens family, but I haven't been able to track it down in 30+ years. If you know what this plant might be and if can be located, I would be appreciative! Thank you!

ANSWER:

Your grandmother did have an impatiens plant.  All Impatiens spp. have seed cases that, when mature, explode when they are touched and "shoot" the seeds out.  There are more than 850 species worldwide.  There are a few North American native species:  Impatiens capensis (orange jewelweed), Impatiens noli-tangere (western touch-me-not), Impatiens pallida (pale touch-me-not), Impatiens aurelia (paleyellow touch-me-not), and Impatiens ecalcarata (spurless touch-me-not).  I don't know whether or not your grandmother lived in Texas, but if she did maybe it was I. capensis (orange jewelweed) that was in her yard since this is a Texas native.  There are also commercial cultivars of Impatiens sp. which aren't native to North America.   For instance, there are I. hawkeri (from New Guinea), I. wallerana (from Africa), and I. balsamina (from India and southeast Asia) that are popular non-native nursery species. Mr. Smarty Plants hopes that if you are considering planting a Touch-Me-Not plant that you will pick the native I. capensis (orange jewelweed) for your garden.

Impatiens capensis

Impatiens capensis

Impatiens noli-tangere

Impatiens pallida

 

 

 

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