The Balsam or Touch Me Not Family

There are only 2 genera in this family with over 1,000 species of herbaceous plants. They are native to parts of Africa and west to the mountains of Southeastern Asia. Perhaps the most well-known genus in the home landscape is the impatiens.

The family typically has bilaterally symmetrical flowers usually having 3 sepals (one forming a spur) and 5 petals. The most distinctive feature is in the anthers which are joined together into a cap structure that covers the ovary in the pistil.

 
Impatiens
 

Note on Taxonomy - Plant taxonomy is the art and science of classifying plants into groupings in order to help people make sense of the huge diversity found in the world. The people who do this for a living are called taxonomists. They are continually evaluating and re-evaluating how plants are classified. For example, with the recent emergence of DNA analysis, many plants have been changing classification.

Also, there is no one, single universal classification system for plants. Rather, there is a lot of debate among taxonomists which may lead to confusion for the average gardener. That is why, in these family listings, you often see the words "about" or "around" when counting the number of genera or species to include. It is also why new families are created and some of the old ones suddenly fade away. So, don't be surprised if you find slightly different information at other sites or sources. Oh, well.

 

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