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Eastern Waterleaf Hydrophyllum virginianum

Phonetic Spelling
hy-droh-FIL-um vir-jin-ee-AY-num
Description

Eastern Waterleaf is a tall (1 to 2 feet), upright, herbaceous perennial, wildflower in the waterleaf family that is native to the moist woodlands of eastern Canada and the United States, including the Piedmont and mountains of North Carolina. It spreads by rhizomes and seeds to form large colonies. Blooming occurs in early spring to July with small, white to lilac, bell-shaped flowers in clusters on 4 inch long stalks that attract bees. Lower leaves up to 10 inches long are deeply divided into 5 to 7 sharply and coarsely toothed green leaflets (deep lobes); leaflets on the upper leaves are not as deeply cut. The young leaves of spring have a mottled white pattern, as if the leaf were spotted with water, that later leaves do not have. The genus name is from the Greek hydor meaning water and phyllon meaning leaf in reference to markings on plant leaves. The species name is in reference to Virginia being part of the native territory for this plant.

Eastern Waterleaf prefers fertile, consistently moist, well-drained soil in partial sun to light shade. It will tolerate wet soil and can spread aggressively under ideal conditions. This plant can make a care-free ground cover in shady woodland settings or the margins of ponds or streams. Foliage is occasionally browsed by deer. The plant can be propagated by dividing the rhizome in the fall when the plant is dormant, making sure that each division has a leaf bud and some roots.

Diseases, Insect Pests, and Other Plant Problems:  Its aggressive spreading habit does not make this an ideal planting in a small garden.  

No known diseases or insect pests.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Var. atranthum
    Purple flowers
Var. atranthum
Tags:
#white flowers#pink flowers#native perennials#shade garden#NC native#spreading#deer browsing plant#lavender flowers#groundcover#food source summer#food source nectar#food source pollen#Piedmont Mountains FAC#Coastal FACW#partial shade tolerant#Audubon#woodland garden#wildflower
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Var. atranthum
    Purple flowers
Var. atranthum
Tags:
#white flowers#pink flowers#native perennials#shade garden#NC native#spreading#deer browsing plant#lavender flowers#groundcover#food source summer#food source nectar#food source pollen#Piedmont Mountains FAC#Coastal FACW#partial shade tolerant#Audubon#woodland garden#wildflower
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Hydrophyllum
    Species:
    virginianum
    Family:
    Hydrophyllaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Tea from the roots was used medicinally to stop bleeding and for diarrhea and dysentery. Roots have been used as a mild emetic. Tea or mashed roots were used to treat cracked lips and mouth sores.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern North America
    Distribution:
    AR , CT , DC , DE , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , MA , MD , MI , MN , MO , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , SD , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
    Wildlife Value:
    Its flowers attract bumblebees, small carpenter bees as well as other long-tongued bees.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Edibility:
    Young leaves and shoots are edible and can be added to salads.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 8a, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    Each flower is replaced by a rounded seed capsule that splits open to release its seeds in July to August.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Bell
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    One to two terminal cymes on each stem with 8 to 20 small lavender, pink or white bell-shaped flowers 1 to 2 inches across with extruded stamens. Blooms from March to June. The flowering stalks (or peduncles) of these cymes are up to 4 inches long, terete and glabrous to short-pubescent.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    White
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Pinnatifid
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The oval to triangular leaves are up to 6 inches long (and often wider than long) and are pinnately divided into 3 to 5 leaflets or deep, narrow, lobes with coarsely toothed margins. The tips are acute. The early spring leaves have small patches of white scattered across the upper surfaces giving a watermark look.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Branching sparingly, the erect stems are green, reddish-green, or reddish-brown, glabrous to slightly hairy, with hairs that are curved or appressed against their stems.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Pond
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Shade Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Pollinators