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
DistributionNearly throughout the Mountains, but scarce in the extreme southwestern portion. Widely scattered over much of the Piedmont, possibly absent from the southern portion. Not known from the Coastal Plain.

This is a Northern and Midwestern species, ranging from eastern Canada south to central NC and OK.
AbundanceInfrequent to locally fairly common in the Mountains, but rare in the far southwestern portion. Rare and local in the northern and central Piedmont, east to Wake and Moore counties. This species is not as numerous in the Mountains as is H. canadense, but has more local colonies into the Piedmont than does that species. Although sparsely distributed in the Piedmont, some populations may be very large, with hundreds or even thousands of plants (Deep River in Moore County).
HabitatThis is a species of rich and other moist forests, most often found in the state in Rich Cove Forests, and downstate in Basic Mesic Forests. It also occurs in floodplain forests, such as along creek margins, as well as in rocky and moist slopes, with some seepage.
PhenologyBlooms from April to June, 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 4inches 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 quite variable in color; some plants have white flowers, whereas others (or at least other populations) have rich violet flowers, and of course many are pale violet and any shade between violet and white! However, you should be easily able to identify the species by its relatively narrow leaves with 5-7 deeply cut lobes, and pale watermarks on them. 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. This species normally is not found in as many montane coves as is the other species, but you should be able to run into it after a handful of searches. More so than with the other two waterleaf species, this species can occur in very large colonies of thousands of plants.
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.

Other Common Name(s)Eastern Waterleaf
State RankS4
Global RankG5
State StatusW6
US Status
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