Impatiens balsamina L.



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© DETenaglia

Family - Balsaminaceae

Habit - Annual forb. Young plants pubescent with short, curved, somewhat glandular hairs.

Impatiens_balsamina_red.jpg Red-flowered plant.

© SRTurner

Stems - Ascending to erect, to 80 cm.

Impatiens_balsamina_stem.jpg Stem.

© DETenaglia

Leaves - Alternate, simple, short-petiolate, 3-10 cm long, the blade oblanceolate to narrowly elliptic, tapered gradually at the base, tapered to the sharply pointed tip, the margins sharply and finely toothed, the basal portion and petiole usually with several small, hemispheric to stalked or tack-shaped, dark-colored glands.

Impatiens_balsamina_leaf.jpg Leaf.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Solitary or less commonly pairs of axillary flowers, these purple to red, pink, white, or combinations thereof.

Flowers - Spurred sepal with the pouched portion 6-14 mm long, broadly conical, wider than long, the spur 1.3-2.2 cm long, gradually recurved.

Impatiens_balsamina_flower.jpg Flower, front view.

© DETenaglia

Impatiens_balsamina_flower2.jpg Flower, side view.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Fruits 1.2-2.0 cm long, asymmetrically elliptic in outline. Seeds 2.5-4.0 mm long, oblong-ovate in outline, rounded at the tip, bluntly 4-angled, the surface pebbled to finely warty, dark brown, with minute, lighter flecks.

Flowering - July - September.

Habitat - Railroads, creek beds, and moist, disturbed areas, usually escaped or persisting from cultivation.

Origin - Native to Asia.

Lookalikes - None.

Other info. - This striking species is rare in the wilds of Missouri, thus far reported from only two counties. Its wider range in the continental U.S. is similarly widely scattered and sporadic in the eastern half of the country. The plant can have flowers of various colors.

The stems of this plant are subsucculent, and the mucilage and other plant parts have been used medicinally to treat a variety of ailments, including warts, snakebite, burns, and constipation. One study showed that extracts of the fruits had antibacterial activity against multiple drug-resistant strains of Helicobacter pylori, an organism responsible for gastric ulcers.

Photographs taken in Vale, NC., 8-23-03 (DETenaglia); also in the bed of Fox Creek, St. Louis County, MO, 7-13-2012 (SRTurner).