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Sky Meadows Park
Crooked Run Valley
Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum)
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of Virginia waterleaf is Hydrophyllum virginianum L. There are two varieties: Hydrophyllum virginianum L. var. virginianum, and 2) Hydrophyllum virginianum L. var. atranthum (Alexander) Constance. Both varieties occur in Virginia.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: Virginia waterleaf is a native perennial herb which reaches a
height of 1-2.5 ft (30-75 cm). The main stem is occasionally hairy, with the hairs flattened against the stem. The stem is purplish at the leaf nodes.
Leaves: The leaves are alternate, broadly oval or triangular, often marked with white, deeply pinnately divided, to 6 in (15 cm) long and 4 in (10 cm) wide. Leavs have pointed tips, and are sometimes slightly hairy. They have 3-7 sharply toothed, sometimes lobed, leaflets. The leaves of this woodland perennial often appear waterstained. These scattered whitish spots fade with age.
Flowers: Flowers are small narrow tubular to bell-shaped, pale lavender, pink, pale violet to white, 5-parted, 0.3-0.5 in (8-12 mm) long, with 5 protruding pale yellow stamens that turn brown with age. The 5 long narrow sepals have feathery edges under the flower head. Flowers are in a loose, rounded terminal cluster, 2 in (5 cm) wide, of 8-20 flowers, the cluster on long erect naked flower stalk. Flowers on long stalks appear above the leaves in summer. One plant has 1 or 2 clusters on a stem, and may have multiple stems.
Fruit/Seed: A small two-valved capsule releases seeds.
Roots: The root system consists of a tuft of fibrous roots and rhizomes; it occasionally forms colonies.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Virginia waterleaf propogates itself by reseeding and vegetative spread (rhizomes).
HABITAT TYPES: Habits include forests, upland woods, clearings, shady floodplais, moist clearning. It is also grown as an ornamental.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Virginia waterleaf prefers shade to partial shade and rich, moist soils.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs during late spring to early summer (May to August), lasting about 3-4 weeks.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Virginia waterleaf naturally occurs from North Carolina to Vermont and New Hampshire, and extends west to Oklahoma and north to the Dakotas. It does not naturally occur in most of the Gulf States (exception being Alabama), the southwestern, Rocky Mountain, or Pacific coast states. It does occur in the Canadian provinces of Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract bumblebees, digger bees (Synhalonia spp.), cuckoo bees (Nomada spp.), mason bees (Osmia spp.), Halictid bees (Lasioglossum spp., Augochlorella spp., etc.), Andrenid bees (Andrena spp.), and bee flies (Bombyliidae). An Andrenid bee, Andrena geranii, is a specialist pollinator of Hydrophyllum spp. Syrphid flies sometimes feed on the pollen of the flowers, but they are less effective at cross-pollination. Small numbers of lygus bugs, root-maggot flies, leafhoppers and thrips also feedon Virginia waterleaf. The foliage is browsed by white-tailed deer occasionally.