En EspaŅol

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
5 ratings

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


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!


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




More Plant Identification Questions

Identification of all-white small plants growing in the woods in Belmont, MA.
July 21, 2009 - I have just seen a group of completely ALL-WHITE small plants growing in the woods. They have 4-8in. stalks with a kind of bell-shaped flower growing at the top. There is no green anywhere on this pla...
view the full question and answer

Identity of vine in New York
September 30, 2013 - Hey there. I've recently found a "Wild Cucumber" vine in my backyard, which has been taking over our electric fence. Now I've stumbled across another very similar vine. They fruits are clustere...
view the full question and answer

Mystery tree with yellow fruit in MN
November 12, 2012 - There is a tree at my workplace, about 8' tall, with small, pea-sized yellow berries right now (Oct. 2012). The berries are attractive to Cedar Waxwings, and the tree has small leaves that are simple...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 11, 2010 - Dear Mr Smarty Pants.I hope you can help to save my sanity! I am a true believer in using native plantings, having a yard that is 99% native. I hope that fact provides me a little extra credit towar...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of conifer-like low plant in Alabama
September 27, 2011 - When walking in woods of Alabama we found a plant that grows along the ground. looks like a conifer about 2 or 3 inches tall, has a trailing vine under the leaves and pops up little sprigs of greener...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center