Native Plant Spotlight: Jewelweed


You know what they say about assuming.

For years, running along this boardwalk- nearly weekly- based on some of the plants before me – the Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica), Phragmites & purple loosestrife, I assumed that all the plants that congregated in this marshy area at the head of the Alewife Brook were invasive.  I ran right by a beautiful little treasure that I want to highlight today.  A wonderful native annual that is in the same family as a common annual you may have in your yard or in a container on your porch.

Impatiens capensis or Jewelweed.


Jewelweed gets it’s common name from how drops of dew collect and shimmer like jewels on this marshy-loving annual’s leaves.  It’s orangy-yellow bilateral flowers bloom through most of the summer.  They hang under the leaves and don’t look much at all like it’s well known cousin- Impatiens walleriana.  But the impatien family is vast and the shady planter box favorite is just one of many in this geographically well distributed genus.  (Also above- a little swamp milkweed for fun)


However, when you pick one of jewelweed’s slender seed pods and give it a little squeeze, you are immediately reminded of the common nursery annual.  The pods burst with gusto, inverting into a swirly shape- sending seeds out in every-which-way.

So thank you jewelweed.  Thank you for reminding me to look carefully and look twice.  Even in human disturbed areas saturated with invasives, wonderful native specimens may be holding their own.  I will no longer assume!

Have you encountered any unexpected floral treasures when you looked twice?  Or like me, is there a patch near you full of invasives that you want to give a second look to?


Native Garden Inspiration: Alewife Brook Reservation


A little way down the bike path from my house is a great bit of urban wild- the Alewife Brook Reservation.  Nestled on the borders of Arlington & Cambridge MA- between a rail line and a highway.  Doesn’t sound idyllic, but it is.  The state put in a lot of effort to improve storm water run-off in the rivers that ultimately feed into Massachusetts Bay.  Part of that project was to install bioswales & other water management features, along with an awesome year round beautiful native plant park- complete with boardwalks over the marsh, trails for running, granite amphitheater and informational signs about the plants and animals that call this area home.


This morning I went for a run along the reservation, to see what had changed since the last time I was there about a month ago.  Everything has changed!  And I can’t seem to pick a favorite time of year here!  In the above picture you can see that the goldenrod is popping or about to pop (I can’t ever identify Solidago species… they all look the same to me).  Behind that the purple clouds are New York Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) looking like a boss.  Also some rudbekia, common primrose and boneset (I think Eupatorium perfoliatum).


Each step requires closer inspection.  The monarda have lost their flowers, but the heads still look nice.  And even closer still reveals…


A bumble having a grand old time on a partridge pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata.


More boneset in the foreground, with some GIANT Joe Pye Weed in the background & left.  And some red berried bush… I can’t identify because I’m terrible with shrubs.  But it was everywhere and looking fine.


Maybe you can see the flashes of white above?  Beautiful swamp rose mallows (Hibiscus mosechuetos) in white and pale pink.  Also, I need to learn more about grasses, because I love all of these grasses.

Everywhere you look there is a wonderful and natural tangle.  An ever changing cast of characters.  Such is the glory of a native space.  This area was intentionally planted about 5 years ago, but now mostly left alone save some chopping back.  The year round interest and layers of plants is truly inspiring.  I can’t replicate this all in my garden- I don’t have that much sun nor is my yard partially a marsh! But I can take some cues.  I wonder what I’ll find during my next run through!