For the adventurous among us, there’s an inexplicable satisfaction derived from experiences like the popping of bubble wrap, the sensation of Pop Rocks on your tongue, and the surprise of peeling open a tube of compressed biscuit dough (sound familiar?). If you or your kids fall into this thrill-seeking segment of our populace, have I got an adventure for you! Set aside an hour or two this long and lazy weekend to spy a patch of Orange Jewelweed in your neighborhood. Once your encounter begins, expect jewelweed’s secret surprise!
A Surprise, A Remedy, and A Snack
You’re sure to become visually and tactically addicted to this wild-growing annual plant, known to herbalists for its ability to soothe poison ivy-rashed skin, and known to all whom discover it as a source of harmless, unforgettable fun. Once you touch one of Jewelweed’s tiny, watermelon-looking seed pods, it silently explodes open in your palm, revealing the small seeds. The origin of Jewelweed’s nickname “Touch-Me-Not” will instantly make sense. When all the giggling dies down, carefully peel away the green skin protecting the seeds, and a pretty, robin’s-egg blue shell appears. And these seeds are edible!
What’s In A Name?
I used to think that Jewelweed’s common name was a tribute to the seeds’ pretty color; Turns out, it’s derived from the jewel-like appearance of the leaves when raindrops adhere….a good reason not to cancel your Jewelweed adventure if it rains.
The Surprise Has A Function
To narrow your search for Orange Jewelweed, look in shaded areas for a plant with pretty orange flowers and those tiny watermelon-looking pods….the plumper the better for entertainment purposes. Then, familiarize yourself with the “explosion” technique before demonstrating to the youngsters. You can even educate them about the mechanical energy that causes the seed dispersal being an effective form of plant propagation. Snacking is optional!