Cathcart's Balsam
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Cathcart's Balsam
P Native Photo: Saroj Kasaju
Common name: Cathcart's Balsam
Botanical name: Impatiens cathcartii    Family: Balsaminaceae (Balsam family)

Cathcart's Balsam is a perennial herb, about 30-70 cm tall. It was named for James F. Cathcart, member of the Indian Civil Service and amateur botanist of the 19th century. Flowers are borne 3-10 in leaf-axils, carried on flower-cluster-stalks about 2-10 cm long. Flowers are bisexual, zygomorphic, flower-stalk slender, velvet-hairy, rising up, about 1.5-2 cm long. Sepals are 3, overlapping, 2 lateral ones flat, small, lanceshaped-ovate, usually green, hairless, about 1.6 cm long, posterior sepal (Lip) large, petaloid, obovate, broadly boat-shaped, spurred, spur abruptly constricted, reddish, about 1-1.8 cm long, petals 5, free, purple, pink, mauve or white, upper standard petal, dorsally keeled or hoodlike, nearly round-obheart-shaped, about 1.6-1.8 x 2-2.2 cm long, lateral ones (wings or alae), fused in pairs, bilobed, basal lobes somewhat kidney shaped, distal lobes, broadly ovate, almost of similar size, margins entire, dorsal ear present. Stems are erect, simple or sparsely branched, hairless. Leaves are alternate or spirally arranged, wider in the middle, lanceshaped-ovate to ovate-elliptic, about 8-25 x 3-12 cm, base wedge-shaped to pointed, margins shallow rounded toothed with few thread-like appendages near the base, tip tapering or pointed, lateral veins about 6-11 on either side of the midrib, green hairless, above and paler beneath, leaf-stalk slender, about 1-8 cm long. Fruit is cylindrical or linear, about 2 cm long, swollen in the middle, hairless. Cathcart's Balsam is native to East Himalaya.

Identification credit: Rajib Gogoi Photographed in Soureni, Mirik, West Bengal.

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