Spotted Touch-Me-Not

2016 January 2

Happy New Year!

OK, here’s the deal. I’m running low on easily-accessible bugs[1]. Which means that now is as good a time as any to broaden my focus a bit. The local plants really deserve the same “catalog ’em all” approach that I’ve been using for the arthropods. There are a lot of local plant species, and no really good guide to them all. So, what I plan to do from here on out is to alternate: on Wednesdays I’ll still post the bugs, but on Saturdays I’ll post the local plants.

And to start, here is a rather interesting one: the Spotted Touch-Me-Not, Impatiens capensis.

These grow down in the constantly-wet bottoms of roadside ditches and alongside streams, and are sometimes quite profuse. Here’s a closer view of the stems and leaves:

The orange blossoms are very pretty, and look like little slippers.

The “Touch-Me-Not” name comes from an amusing trait of the seed pods.

When they are sufficiently ripe, touching them will cause them to pop open so violently that they seem to explode, and scatter their seeds all over the place. Here’s a short video of one popping off when I touched it:

The seeds are thrown quite some distance, and in addition I think that if the pod is triggered by a passing animal they are thrown with sufficient force to embed in the animal’s hair for a while, which would help to carry the seeds for a long way, maybe even several miles.

[1] I’ve been posting pictures of arthropods since February of 2007, and as of this one am hitting 680 posts. While there are a lot of arthropods around, the supply is just large, not infinite, and 680 is a fairly large number. As a result, while I’m not done yet by a long shot, I have used up most of the easy targets – the ones that regularly get into the house, or are drawn to lights at night, or are just so common that I see them all over the place. It has gotten to the point where if I want to find something new, I need to actually plan out where to find them and specifically go looking, rather than just depending on what happens to crop up. The pickings are getting a bit lean to keep on posting bugs and nothing else twice a week, is what I’m saying here.

4 Responses
  1. January 2, 2016

    Outstanding photos!

    Will you be laying insect traps across the property now?

  2. January 2, 2016

    I suppose the name “somethinggrowinginmyhair” might be more apt now.

  3. January 2, 2016

    KT: yes, I’ll probably try a couple kinds of traps. I hear the Malaise trap is good for flies, which are kind of underrepresented here.

    Tim: yes, but it would be awkward to change the name now. There is a lot of precident for keeping a name even after it is no longer accurate – like 3M, whose full name is “Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing” even though their only mining activity at the moment is crushing rock to use as a base for the colored gravel on shingles.

  4. Carole permalink
    January 2, 2016

    Great idea, since plants and insects evolved together. Might be interesting to note which insects your native plants support.

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