While continuing my wildflower inventory today at Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve in the Town of Clifton Park, I noticed several Pale Jewelweed beginning to bloom.
I had noticed some of the first Spotted Jewelweed blooms nearly two weeks ago.
The different dates for when these two species begin blooming and the different colors of their blooms aren’t the only differences between these two common wetland plants. Another pretty reliable characteristic (but no always foolproof) is the number of teeth that appear along either side of a leaf’s margin. Pale Jewelweed typically have more than ten (see photo immediately below) while Spotted Jewelweed typically has less than ten. For the latter, take a closer look at the leaves in the photo immediately above.
Leaf of Pale Jewelweed – typically > 10 teeth per side of leaf
The stem of jewelweed is succulent, hollow, and usually reddish at the joints. Indeed, the large lower joint (note one of these in the lower left portion of the photo above of Spotted Jewelweed) is a key characteristic to help identify these plants when you come across their stems in late fall or even winter.
Jewelweeds are of special value to our most abundant large bee species, the Common Eastern Bumblebee. However, these plants also attract butterflies, but they are especially adapted to visitations from Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds.
Native Americans used the mucilaginous sap medicinally, applied topically to relieve itching and pain from hives, poison ivy, stinging nettle, and other skin problems. Therefore, crush a handful of either species and rub it over your skin the next time you brush up against any of the species of nettles. Thankfully, jewelweeds and nettles routinely share the same habitat, so having quick access to relief to douse that flaming skin sensation of nettles is reassuring!
Since jewelweed plants are only available for a few months each year, I suggest that you grind some up in a blender and put it in an ice-cube tray, and have some ice-cubed jewelweed handy to rub on rashes or irritations at other times of the year.
If you wish to try to establish jewelweed in your garden, view this article.