As you may have already known, I’m a big fan of my Impatiens niamniamensis. Whilst I don’t like to play favorites, this species of impatiens really impresses me. It’s exotic flowers, strange bonsai trunk and pure exotic nature make my imagination run rampant. While I’ve often heard impatiens referred to as “Touch Me Nots” because of their exploding seed pods I’ve never actually seen it happen. The common Impatiens walleriana we grow at work don’t seem to go to seed, perhaps due to some glitch bred in during the hybridising process.
Having only had my I. niamniamensis for a little over a season and a half now this is the first year I’ve managed to get it to seed. The first year pollinators didn’t find it and most of the flowers faded off and did nothing. This season something different happened. I had originally thought that I. niamniamensis might have left it’s pollinators at home somewhere in central Africa, I was wrong. In late summer I began to see drunk wasps crawling inside the blooms to get a taste of the inner nectar. A few weeks later seed pods started to develop and a couple days ago I found my first exploded seed pod on the floor. The seeds are made of the strangest rubbery material twisted in on itself to create a slingshot effect when disturbed.
Having lost the first pod’s seeds to the floor (or who knows where) I decided to try to capture the seeds and placed a small plastic bag around the seed pod. Within 24 hours the pod had exploded and the bag had collected the seeds. Excellent! Having felt pretty happy with myself I began to tie another bag onto an almost ripe seed pod when suddenly it burst and flung it’s contents in every which direction. A small popping sound could be heard, and the tightly wound rubber pod snapped apart. The conclusion to this experiment, when the pods are ready they wait like armed grenades, ready to explode when disturbed. The slingshot effect must help the plant disperse it’s seeds great distances, thus eliminating competition for the mother plant.
I love it when plant science works out. I’ve read they’re easy enough to grow from seed so I’m going to give it a shot with the fresh ones I’ve collected.