Travel is great teacher, and some lessons need to be learned over and over. Most of my recent trip to Nova Scotia was light on botany, as I did most of my botanizing at 100 kilometers an hour (62 - for those of us who think in miles per hour) however one stunning floral find stands out in my mind.
Early on in the trip, while visiting the shores of the Bay of Fundy in St. John, Nova Scotia I was smitten by a flower covering the rock banks and sea walls. This beauty was obviously an impatiens, closely related to Impatiens capensis and Impatiens pallida, the ones familiar to Ohio flora-philes.
Impatiens glandulifera is called Himalayan balsam, ornamental impatiens or in Britain- policeman’s helmet. Very similar to our local impatiens, it is smooth and hairless with succulent stems. It is a jumbo sized beauty, ranging from three to ten feet tall. The orchid -to- rose colored flowers are irregular, with five petals similar to other balsams. The fruit ripens into 1/2 inch long banana shaped pods which explodes to expel the seed- hence the name impatiens.
SO what was the lesson? I wanted this plant! I wanted to bring it home, share the seeds with friends, and spread the joy of this gorgeous, yet hardy impatiens. Apparently that is exactly how the first of this highly invasive plant found their way to our shore. Some other overly enthusiastic gardener fell in love with this insidious gad-about, and it has spread itself throughout Great Britain and beyond, much to the State Noxious Weed Control Board's concern. And I was nearly the fool who would introduce it in Ohio!