The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Jewel Weed

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1983-2012

Issue: September, 1983

jewel weedJewel Weed - illustration by Susan M. Thigpen.This is a weed/wild flower that grows in abundance along road banks and just about everywhere else in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Wherever you find them growing, there will be a thicket of them, taller than your knees. The plant is a succulent annual and dies back immediately at the slightest fall frost.

In the summer, they are covered with beautiful blooms. There are two varieties; one that blooms yellow and one that blooms bright orange. Both varieties have pods which when mature burst suddenly upon being touched, hence the common name of “Touch Me Not.”

The blooms resemble snapdragons but are suspended from the plant on delicate little thread-like supports.

Being beautiful isn’t all there is to the Jewel Weed. If you have ever accidentally brushed against the Stinging Nettle Plant, you know the results. Immediately the spot will start itching and burning and may even blister if you are particularly sensitive. Curiously, as if Mother Nature planned it, Jewel Weed usually grows near Stinging Nettles and it is said if you immediately rub the foliage of the Jewel Weed on the spot, the itching and stinging will go away. The American Indians also used it as a cure for poison oak by squeezing the juice from the Jewel Weed on the affected area. As far as I know, it has never been dried or used for other purposes.

While it can be a pesky plant in your garden, you still have to admire its beauty in the wild.