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Any of about 900 species of herbaceous plants in the genus Impatiens (balsam family), so named because the seedpod bursts when slightly touched. Garden balsam (I. balsamina), native to the tropics of Asia, is a favourite showy annual in U.S. gardens; its flowers are irregular, single or clustered, and of almost every colour but blue. Familiar related weeds in eastern North America are spotted jewelweed (I. biflora or I. capensis) and pale touch-me-not (I. pallida). Most impatiens have weak, hollow stems and require high moisture. Close relatives are geraniums and nasturtiums.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on impatiens, visit Britannica.com.