Impatiens balsamina (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Impatiens balsamina L.

Protologue: Sp. Pl. 2: 938 (1753).
Family: Balsaminaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 14 (+ 2B), but also recorded as 12, 18, 20, 24


  • Impatiens cornuta L. (1753).

Vernacular names

  • Garden balsam, garden balsamine (En)
  • Balsamine des jardins (Fr)
  • Brunei: banga pacar (Bukit Udal, Dusun), bungar pecar (Sengkurong, Kedayan Malay)
  • Indonesia: pacar air (general), pacar banyu (Javanese), paru inai (Minangkabau), laka gofu (Ternate)
  • Malaysia: bungatabo, inai ayer, laka kecil, keembong
  • Philippines: kamantigi (Tagalog, Ilokano), solonga (Bisaya)
  • Burma: dau dalet
  • Thailand: thian dok, thian baan, thian suan (central)
  • Vietnam: moc tai, bóng nước, (bông) móng tay, nắc né

Origin and geographic distribution

Garden balsam is a native of India and parts of mainland South-East Asia. It is widely cultivated and often naturalized in tropical and subtropical regions; it is also cultivated in temperate regions. Throughout South-East Asia it is commonly grown in gardens.


The red flowers are used to prepare a red dye for finger nails, as a substitute for henna (Lawsonia inermis L.). Because of its large and usually red flowers, garden balsam is commonly cultivated as an ornamental in gardens. It has several medicinal uses. Leaves and sometimes roots are used in poultices for wounds, skin diseases, pustules, torn nails, and felons. Flowers have fungicidal and possibly also bactericidal properties, and are said to be effective in cases of lumbago, intercostal neuralgia and as haemostatic. They are used as a tonic, and have a cooling effect on burns and scalds, and against rheumatism. In Brunei, a decoction of the roots is drunk to treat irregular menses. The seeds are edible, and contain oil which can be used for burning lamps and in the surface-coating industry. In Bali (Indonesia) the leaves are eaten. In China, the flowers are used as a cosmetic just like henna flowers.


The flowers of garden balsam contain the same dyeing agent as henna, lawsone or 2-hydroxy-1,4-naphthaquinone, which explains the matching uses. Also present is 2-methoxy-1,4-naphthaquinone (lawsone-methylether) which possesses fungicidal properties. The pigments in the flowers have been investigated extensively, and include leucoanthocyanins, anthocyanins and flavonols. The seeds contain 18-27% of a greenish, viscous oil, largely consisting of parinaric acid (29%) and linolenic acid (30%). The seeds contain about 16% protein and no starch.


  • An annual herb, 15-60(-80) cm tall. Stems erect, simple or sparsely branched, with swollen joints, glabrous, or pubescent when young.
  • Leaves arranged spirally, but lower leaves occasionally opposite, (narrowly) lanceolate to narrowly elliptic, 3-10(-15) cm × 1.5-3 cm, cuneate at base, acute at apex, serrate, glabrous, and sessile or shortly petiolate.
  • Flowers 1-3 together in leaf-axils, red, purple, white or variegated, variable in size, up to 3.5 cm long, with slender pedicels; sepals 3, the lowest one larger, petaloid, funnel-shaped, 13-21 mm long, abruptly constricted into a curved filiform spur 13-24 mm long; petals 5, seemingly 3, the upper one free and long-mucronate at apex, the other 4 pairwise connate; stamens 5, fused in the upper half; ovary superior, densely pubescent.
  • Fruit a fleshy 4-5-valved capsule, explosively dehiscent, broadly fusiform, 12-20 mm × 6-8 mm, densely pubescent.

Garden balsam is a very variable species, particularly in the size of leaves and flowers. Many varieties and cultivars have been recognized. Double-flowered plants and dwarf forms have been selected for ornamental purposes.


Garden balsam is found naturally from sea-level to 1250 m altitude on wet, rather open places or as forest undergrowth. In cultivation it thrives best in rich, loose soil with water freely available. In the tropics it usually flowers all the year round.


Plants are easily propagated from seed. Seedlings are raised in the nursery. A mixture of coconut dust, coarse sand, and clayey soil in the ratio of 3:1:1 is recommended as potting material, applied with 50 g of castor meal and 20 g of fertilizer per pot. Garden balsam is susceptible to powdery mildew, often caused by Sphaerotheca fuliginea.


  • Backer, C.A. & Bakhuizen van den Brink, R.C., 1963. Flora of Java. Vol. 1. Noordhoff, Groningen, the Netherlands. p. 249.
  • Grey-Wilson, C., 1985. Balsaminaceae. In: Dassanayake, M.D. & Fosberg, F.R. (Editors): A revised handbook to the Flora of Ceylon. Vol. 5. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. pp. 117-118.
  • Lipiphan, W., 1983. Antimicrobial activities of extracts from medicinal plants. Thai Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 8(1): 21-32.
  • Sastri, B.N. (Editor), 1959. The wealth of India. Raw materials. Vol. 5. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. pp. 167-168.

  • 74,
  • Burkill, I.H., 1966. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Revised reprint. 2 volumes. Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Vol. 1 (A-H) pp. 1-1240, Vol. 2 (I-Z) pp. 1241-2444.
  • 297, 407
  • Holdsworth, D.K., Chin, W. & Mohiddin, M.V., 2001. More medicinal plants of Brunei Darussalam. Journal of Tropical Medicinal Plants 2(1): 133-138., 424, 739, 788, 810, 1071, 1097. medicinals


  • L. Phuphathanaphong
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