Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Virginia Waterleaf - Hydrophyllum virginianum   L.
Members of Hydrophyllaceae:
Members of Hydrophyllum with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Solanales » Family Hydrophyllaceae
DistributionWidely scattered over much of the Piedmont, possibly absent from the southern portion. Not known from the Coastal Plain. The former montane population -- the atranthum taxon -- is hereby moved to that species -- H. atranthum.

This is a Northern and Midwestern species, ranging from eastern Canada south to central NC and OK.
AbundanceRare and local in the northern and central Piedmont, east to Wake and Moore counties. Although sparsely distributed in the Piedmont, some populations may be very large, with hundreds or even thousands of plants (Deep River in Moore County). The website editors suggest a State Rank of S2? for the newly defined species.
HabitatThis is a species of Basic Mesic Forests and floodplain forests.
PhenologyBlooms from April to July, and fruits from July to August.
IdentificationThis is an erect species with several branches and fairly long leaves, making it appear as wide as tall; it can range to 1.5-2 feet tall. It has a few alternate stem leaves, each about 4 inches long and half as wide, but deeply cut into 5-7 lobes, with serrated margins. The upper surface usually contains some small pale blotches, the tell-tale "waterleaf" mark, if present. Each plant has a few ball-like clusters of flowers, on quite long stalks about 4-6 inches tall, lifting the flowers above the leaves. The flowers are bell-shaped, nearly 1/2-inch long and are white to very pale lavenderin color; the very similar H. atranthum of the Mountains has rich violet flowers. H. canadense may grow in the same habitats and sites, but that species has broad leaves with less deeply cut sinuses and thus leaves looking more like a maple leaf.
Taxonomic CommentsWeakley (2018) lists two varieties present in NC -- the nominate var. virginianum is limited essentially to the Piedmont, whereas var. atranthum is the one found only in the mountains. As mentioned above, here the two forms are now considered as separate species.

Other Common Name(s)Eastern Waterleaf
State Rank[S2?]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empFAC link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
Photo Gallery
B.A. SorrieMoore Co., terrace of Deep River due E of Glendon. 3 Apr 2020. MoorePhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieMoore Co., Terrace of Deep River due E of Glendon. 3 Apr 2020. MoorePhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieLocally dominant in levee forest of Deep River, NE of Horseshoe Bend. 13 April 2014. MoorePhoto_natural
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