That’s what my girls named a stretch of the Town Landing Trail descending from Elm Street in Topsham down to the Androscoggin River – Jewelweed Forest. We had had a drizzly evening before our hike, so the plants were moist and dewy as we brushed through them and the bright jewelweed blossoms stood out under a gray sky. They were just about as tall as my girls, making it seem like a forest just their size.
There are few quiet riverfront places in Brunswick and Topsham, and this short trail culminating in lovely views was a nice discovery.
The trail starts at Elm Street and descends quickly into soft grasses and then opens out along the river for a short stretch. It was a treat to look across the river back towards Brunswick’s Pinette Park, where we’ve often played in the field before or after a trip on the bike path. We remembered sledding down the hill and watching ice fishermen, though at this time of year people were wading out in the water to fly fish.
On our way back through Jewelweed Forest I got to thinking about the variety of habitats along the BTLT trails (this trail belongs to the Town of Topsham, but the Land Trust played a pivotal role in designing and building it last summer). Last week, we’d been blueberry picking at Crystal Spring Farm (click HERE for more details on picking at the farm) and that reminded me of the edible and medicinal plants in many of these places.
Jewelweed is one of those plants that are quite useful – and pairs nicely with its adversary, poison ivy, which is often found in similar areas. I will say that we didn’t see any poison ivy on this hike, just to allay any worries. But, aside from having a striking orange flower that looks like a dragon and is much loved by humming birds, jewelweed can be used to relieve itchiness caused by the oils of poison ivy. You can simply crush the leaves and rub on the itchy places, or collect a bunch of jewelweed, blend it in a blender, strain, and rub the juice on the affected area, take a bath in it, or freeze it into ice cubes.**
The name “jewelweed” is because droplets of water bead up on the leaves, giving the appearance of tiny jewels. Another endearing feature of jewelweed is that in the early summer, the seed pods are great fun to pop open.
They are touch sensitive, so that if you touch the bottom of the ripe pods, or put one in the palm of your hand and poke it gently, it will burst open and the seeds will fly out – as seen in this VIDEO. This gives them their other name, touch-me-not.
So, all those pretty flowers along the trail aren’t just adding color and variety
to the landscape, but can serve practical uses and be lots of fun to play with!
By Susan Olcott
** Please use caution when trying any herbal remedy – seek expert advice on your ailment as well as the identification and preparation of all herbals, and keep in mind that each individual may have unique sensitivities that can make certain remedies inappropriate.