Jewelweed grows in wet, shady areas. If you find a bridge, you will probably find jewelweed, as it loves to grow beside creeks and streams. The plant is soft and flimsy with a translucent stem, and grows 2-5 feet tall. The leaves are 1"-4" long ovals with sharply toothed edges. It's unique tube flowers are probably the easiest identification. Flowers are about 1" long, yellow or orange depending on the species- an important nectar source for hummingbirds. Orange flowered plants are called "Spotted Touch-Me-Not" because the ripe seed pods explode when touched, throwing seeds in all directions. The yellow-flowered variety is also a Touch-Me-Not, but just a different variety. The name "jewelweed" is used because water droplets on the plant shine and sparkle like jewels. Here in Michigan the plant blossoms in July and August.
Jewelweed is most commonly used to sooth poison ivy and stinging nettle irritations, but it is also used for bee stings and other skin problems. To use, any part of the plant can be crushed and rubbed on the irritated area. This works best BEFORE the rash appears. My herb book lists the orange variety, Impatiens capenisis, as a remedy for not only poison ivy, but also poison oak and poison sumac. In addition to using fresh leaves, you can also make a tea from 1 heaping teaspoon of dried leaves in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes, strain and cool. It makes more sense to me, however, to just use the fresh crushed plant.
Jewelweed is also a wild edible. The young shoots (up to six inches tall) can be boiled and eaten after removing the leaves. However, use caution because older plants can be a mild purgative (make you throw up). The plant is also high in minerals, so only small amounts should be eaten or it should be mixed with other vegetables.
White, Linda B. The Herbal Drugstore. United States of America: Rodale Inc., 2000. Print.
Tekiela, Stan. Wildflowers of Michigan Field Guide. Cambridge, Minnesota: Adventure Publications, Inc., 2000. Print.
Brown, Tom Jr. Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival. New York: Berkley Books, 1983. Print.