Sunday, September 20, 2009

They're Nature's Fireworks...

"They're Nature's fireworks!" said my youngest about the touch-me-not-plants. And so they are.

Late summer is a wonderful time for trail-walking in general. You get to see the late summer plants in bloom, various bushes with colorful berries, the hints of fall color, and one of our favorites, touch-me-not plants with ripe seed pods. Along a boardwalk section of the Earth is Our Mother Trail at the Ganondagan State Historic Site, there is a happy and vigorous colony of spotted touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis). Touch-me-not is also called "jewelweed." This is a native wildflower and member of the impatiens family that has a curious method of seed dispersal - the seed pods explode sending seeds flying every which way.

The ripe seed capsules are rather reminiscent of tiny pea-pods, although they have 5 parts whereas the pea pods have two. (See the picture to the left.) The ripe seed capsules fly apart when disturbed sending the seeds far and wide. You just gotta love the inventive ways Mother Nature found for species to perpetuate themselves!

Once split, the parts of the seed capsule curl up into curious little shapes. The seeds are oblong, and pointed. If you can manage to get the capsule to "pop" in your hand, you'll see the seeds and what's left of the pod. (See the picture to the right for a view of the seeds and pod bits.)

We spent no less than 20 minutes at this stand of touch-me-not on the way out of our hike and 20 minutes on the way back. Giggles abounded. Learning too. The kids learned that these plants have exploding seed pods to spread their seed, hopefully giving the seeds good places to sprout next year. They learned that these plants are called "Spotted Touch-me-not" but they also are called "jewelweed." If you see how the leaves resist water - dew beads up on the leaves and leaves under water look like silver, you'll understand why they are called "jewelweed." But the kids also learned that this plant's sap is a common herbal remedy for poison ivy and wise old Mother Nature grows this beauty in the same places as poison ivy. She gives you the poison but the cure is right there too.

In these days where too often children sit by themselves at computers and hand-held electronics on beautiful days, I urge you to take a few minutes and share the beauty and wonder of Nature with the children in your life. My own greatest and most enjoyed memories of childhood are simple pleasures - things that cost nothing or very little at all. Picnics. Climbing trees. Building sandcastles. Gardening with my parents. Making hollyhock flower dolls and clover flower necklaces which my mom showed me how to make. Throwing burdock at each other with my sisters and cousins which was all "fun and games" until someone got it in the hair! But anyways....make some memories. You'll never regret the time spent making these kind of memories but you will regret it if you let the opportunity pass you by.


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