The entire embankment in front of our house is bright with orange jewelweed flowers. Bees and hummingbirds visit all day. The bees crawl up inside the flower after nectar until just their hind ends are visible. The nectar is deep inside the back of the flower in the curl. It must be plentiful and sweet because the honey and bumble bees put a lot of effort into getting inside the flower cone. The hummingbirds spar over rights to the area, although there is plenty of room and flowers for all.
Since the last piece I wrote about this plant, I have paid particular attention to its growth habits. I have come to believe that the idea of jewelweed producing round flowers that never open and also that these odd flowers become the seed pods is not accurate. I find no round flowers that never open. I’ve watched flowers develop from the tiny ball-like buds, reach their peak and go by to leave a long, slim fruiting body that thickens to develop into the seed case. The photo below shows the round buds and full-blown flowers. These round buds definitely develop into the flower.
When the seed cases are ripe, they are sensitive to the slightest physical disturbance, hence the plant’s alternate name: Touch-Me-Not. A slight touch sends seeds bursting away in all directions. I collected some of the ripe, brown seeds and tasted them, since they are edible. The seeds do taste remarkably like walnuts, right down to the distinctive astringency of the skin on walnut meat. It would take a long time to collect enough jewelweed seeds to make a meal, but they are a yummy treat.