Common in bottomland soils, ditches, and along creeks, often growing side-by-side with its less common relative, Pale jewelweed (I. pallida). an herbaceous plant that grows 3 to 5 feet tall and blooms from late spring to early fall. The flowers are orange (sometimes blood orange or rarely yellow) with a three-lobed corolla; one of the calyx lobes is colored similarly to the corolla and forms a hooked conical spur at the back of the flower. Plants may also produce non-showy cleistogamous flowers, which do not require cross-pollination.
It often branches extensively. The round stems are glabrous (smooth) and succulent, and semi-translucent, with swollen or darkened nodes on some plants. The leaves are alternate and simple and have teeth on the margins. The seed pods have five valves which coil back rapidly to eject the seeds in a process called explosive dehiscence or ballistochory. This reaction is where the name ‘touch-me-not’ comes from; in mature seed pods, dehiscence can easily be triggered with a light touch.