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Plant Profile: Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum viginianum)

Also called eastern waterleaf and Shawnee salad , this herbaceous perennial is native to moist and wet woodlands in eastern US and is a member of the borage family, Borginaceae, that also includes forget-me-not, lungwort, and heliotrope. The plant grows 1- 2′ tall and spreads by rhizomes and seeds to form large colonies. The stems are green to reddish or brownish green and are occasionally hairy. The oval to triangular leaves are 6″ long, and pinnately divided into 3-5 leaflets or deep lobes with acute tips and coarsely toothed margins. As the leaves emerge in the spring they have a mottled look that give the appearance of splashes of water giving rise to the common name. From spring to early summer, dense terminal spherical cymes about 2″ across appear with 8-20 bell-shaped flowers. The 1/2″ long flowers are lavender, pink, or white, have 5 lobes and hairy extruded stamens, and are pollinated by bumblebees, small carpenter bees, and other long-tongued bees that feed on the nectar. The fruit is a round seed capsule containing many seeds. The plants are very vigorous and may overwhelm a small garden so are best used in woodland gardens and shady naturalized areas. The genus name, Hydrophyllum, comes from the Greek words hydro, meaning water, and phyllon, meaning leaf, and refers to the appearance of the first leaves. The specific epithet, virginianum, is a Latinized form of Virgina, part of the natural range of the plant.

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Bloom: Dense terminal spherical clusters with 8-20 bell-shaped, lavender pink or white flowers from spring to early summer.

Size: 1-2′ H x 1.4′ W

Light: Part shade to full shade

Soil: Humusy, moist to medium mosit, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 4-9

Care: Confine growth

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed, division

Companion Plants: White baneberry (Actea pachypoda), wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), wild ginger (Asarum canadensis), dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), trout lilies (Erythronium spp)

Outstanding Selections: None available

Photo Credit:Fritzflohrreynolds Wikipedia