Breeched Wales Bloviating in the Hot Sun

Location: Long Island, New York, United States

Friday, July 08, 2005

Yea! My Policemans Helmets are flowering

Wow! The flowers are so much better than I expected. So far two red plants, one purple, and one pink. Ever since I was a kid I've been trying to start these things and never got them to germinate.

I used to love the native touch-me-nots of upstate NY when I was a kid. The first time I noticed them was because my father had planted store bought impatiens in a planter on our deck. I was intrigued by the swollen stems, which made the plants look like succulent bonsai, and the bright flowers with tiny noses. The petals have embedded beads that act as retro-reflectors of any ambient light to better attract insects in the shade. They were awesome at night when flowers glowed under the back porch lights

So one day I was coming back from a small stream at which I used to play and low and behold there were the same stems on these wild plants. I tracked their progress and was surprised by the little orange goldfish like flowers. The most exciting thing was the seedpods, which explode like little firecrackers when ripe. The slightest touch to a ripe one generates a satisfying pop that scatters seeds to the four corners of the earth. Brushing an undisturbed plant for the first time sets of a fireworks grand finale.

I was reading about these wild impatiens when I learned about another member of this family the Policeman’s Helmet. I found a seed supplier and for three years was unsuccessful at getting them to germinate. The seeds about size of the wild touch-me-not seeds and needed cold stratification and surface sowing which I provided. All they seemed to do is grow mold. I finally gave up around twenty years ago.

This year I decided to try again. I got seeds from two sources. One set of seeds looked just like the ones I had before, but the seeds of the other supplier were large, about eight times as heavy as the others. Then I realized why I was unsuccessful before. The small seeds were all shriveled up and dead. The shriveled seeds grew mold once again but the hefty seeds germinated.

Nice plump seeds. These ones will make wicked projectiles. Did I forget to tell you they have the same exploding seedpods. I can’t wait to prompt some naïve admirer to touch one.