February 20, 2020

ORRIN MORRIS: Jewelweed can reduce itch caused by poison ivy

JEWELWEED Impatiens capensis

JEWELWEED Impatiens capensis

The announcement that the Messiah was born was made to a group of shepherds. If the story was fictional, the writer would certainly not have chosen the angelic announcement to be given to shepherds. Surely he would have chosen a group of religious leaders like priests or pharisees. On a less lofty level one might have chosen the text copiers, or scribes.

The choice of shepherds vindicates the authenticity of the Scriptural account since they were not the logical choice from a human perspective.

Furthermore, they were the most likely to be free from the hustle and bustle of city and farm chores and thus likely to pay attention to the angelic proclamation.

Finally, since they were among the least of occupations, the wording of the announcement struck an important note to their hearing.

The angels said, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10 KJV).” To all people, including the lowly shepherds. Indeed, the coming of the Messiah brings great joy and that joy is for all people.


Impatiens capensis

Jewelweed is a plant which has a name that is descriptive of its shape. The name has two possible origins, both from its appearance.

First, the blooms hang from the branch on slim stems, called pedicels, reminding one of a jewelry pendant. Second, one botanist noted that the leaves are “heavily glaucous,” thus repelling water. In a light rain, the droplets that don’t roll off glisten like tiny jewels.

Jewelweed thrives in moist places. This 3 to 6 feet tall plant appears as early as May and blooms until frost unless an extended dry spell kills it. The blooms in our area tend to be orangish-yellow with small brown spots. In the north Georgia mountains I have seen reddish-orange Jewelweeds.

The bloom is trumpet shaped with three lips. At the back is a curved spur.

A second name for jewelweed is touch-me-not. After pollination, the seed pod slowly forms with five sections. When it matures the slightest touch makes the case explode, projecting the seeds in all directions.

This plant has been a source of yellow dye since colonial times. The herbalist, Euell Gibbons, championed the juice for reducing the itch of poison ivy.

Our ancestors learned the value of jewelweed from American Indians throughout the Eastern tribes. They used it for a skin salve, treating athletes foot and fungi problems. One Delaware tribe made a poultice for wounds, according to Jack Sanders in his book, “Hedgemaids and Fairy Candles, The Lives and Lore of North American Wildflowers.”

May the good tidings of great joy be delivered to your family and community by your activities during this Advent season.

May the good tidings of this season be evident in all you do and say this holiday and throughout the coming year.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center St. in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.

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ORRIN MORRIS: Jewelweed can reduce itch caused by poison ivy

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