Wildflowers of the Westborough Reservoir

Mid-July, p. 2

Jewelweed or Spotted Touch-Me-Not, Touch-Me-Not family (Balsaminaceae), Native
Jewel Weed

From mid-July through mid-September, jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) blooms in moist, partly shady areas of the Reservoir, particularly along streambanks. The numerous orange blossoms dangle like jewels from delicate stems. They develop into quarter-inch seed pods that pop open at a touch when they are ripe, providing great fun for kids and flinging seeds up to four or five feet away. These active seed pods give rise to the plant's other name, spotted touch-me-not.

Some people use jewelweed to treat the itch and rash from poison ivy. They pick leaves and rub them on the affected skin, or they boil the plants in water and put the liquid on the rash. Various Native American tribes used the plant for an assortment of skin ailments.

Pinesap, Wintergreen or Pyrola family (Pyrolaceae), Native

Similar to Indian pipes, pinesap (Monotropa hypopithys) appears in July and August, often under pine trees. It is saprophytic, living off decaying plant matter. The plant and its several nodding flowers are dull yellow or amber, the color of some pine sap.

Checkerberry or Wintergreen, Heath family (Ericaceae), Native

The small, waxy, bell-shaped white blossoms of checkerberry (Gaultheria procumbens) appear in mid-July. The plant with its blossoms somewhat resembles a small, very low blueberry plant and is often found under evergreen trees. In the fall, it has red berries that can last through the winter.

Checkerberry is the "wintergreen" that has been a source of oil of wintergreen, used in the past as a flavoring agent. Traditionally it was also applied externally to relieve bodily aches and pains. A tea from the leaves was used for colds, fevers, headaches, and stomach aches.

Broken leaves give off a recognizable wintergreen scent and have a wintergreen flavor. The chemical responsible for this wintergreen aroma and taste, methyl salicylate, is related to aspirin. This chemical is now made synthetically for commercial uses, such as flavoring.

Checkerberry is in the heath family (Ericaceae), along with blueberries, azaleas, and rhododendrons.

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  Copyright © Anne A. Reid, 1999-2002.
  Photographs copyright © Garry K. Kessler, 1999-2002.