Virginia waterleaf

(Hydrophyllum virginianum var. virginianum)

Conservation Status
Virginia waterleaf
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FAC - Facultative


FAC - Facultative

  Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative


Virginia waterleaf is a 6 to 30 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on multiple stems from fleshy, fibrous roots and a long, scaly rhizome.

The stems are erect, hairless near the bottom, hairy above the middle with short, appressed hairs.

Basal leaves are on stalks up to 5½ long. Stem leaves are alternate and on shorter stalks, the stalks becoming gradually shorter as they ascend the stem. The leaves are broadly triangular in outline, 4 to 8 long, usually wider than long. They ate dark green and often have pale green or whitish markings on the upper surface that resemble water spots. They are deeplydivided into usually 5, sometimes 7 or 9, lobes cut almost to the midrib (pinnatifid). The two basal lobes and the terminal lobe are divided again into 2 or 3 lobes. All lobes come to a sharp point at the tip. The margins have sharp, forward-pointing teeth.

The inflorescence is dense, compact, rounded clusters rising on forked stalks from the upper leaf axils and at the end of the stems.

The flowers are bell-shaped, ¼ to long on short stalks. The flower stalks have short, appressed, ascending hairs. They have 5 lavender to white petals, fused over half their length into a broad tube, then separating into 5 erect, flat-tipped lobes. There are 5 stamens with hairy filaments. The stamens and style extend well beyond the petals.

The fruit is a 1-chambered capsule with 1 to 3 seeds.




6 to 30


Flower Color


Lavender to white


Similar Species


Great waterleaf (Hydrophyllum appendiculatum) is a somewhat taller plant with less deeply divided leaves and both short and long hairs on the stems. It reaches up to 48 at maturity. Stem leaves are shallowly palmately divided into usually 5 lobes, giving them a maple-like appearance. The petals are lavender to pink, rarely white. The upper stems are densely hairy with both short and long hairs. The inflorescence stalk and the individual flower stalks are densely hairy. The stamens and style extend only slightly beyond the petals. In Minnesota it is found only in the southeast.


Moist to wet. Woods.




May to June


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Boraginales (borages)  


Boraginaceae (borage)  
  Subfamily Hydrophylloideae (baby blue eyes, phacelias, and waterleaves)  


Hydrophyllum (waterleaves)  
  Species Hydrophyllum virginianum (Virginia waterleaf)  

Subordinate Taxa








Common Names


eastern waterleaf

John’s cabbage

northern waterleaf

Shawnee Salad


Virginia waterleaf

Virginia water-leaf












Palmately divided

Similar to a hand. Having more than three lobes that radiate from a single point at the base of the leaf.



Deeply cut, more than half way to the midrib but not to the midrib, into lobes that are spaced out along the midrib; the lobes do not form separate leaflets.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.

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    Virginia waterleaf      


    Virginia waterleaf   Virginia waterleaf  


    Virginia waterleaf   Virginia waterleaf  
    Virginia waterleaf      


    Virginia waterleaf   Virginia waterleaf  
    Virginia waterleaf      






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Other Videos
  Acrobat Ants Nectar Scraping Virginia Waterleaf

Published on Jun 2, 2014

Virginia Waterleaf, Hydrophyllum virginianum, is a native ephemeral that is typically pollinated by bumblebees. Occasionally though ants, such as these Crematogaster cf. cerasi will steal the nectar, thus discouraging pollination. However these seem to only be nectar scraping the excess outside the petals.

  Virgina Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virgianium)

Uploaded on Apr 27, 2010 - Virginia Waterleaf is a very common woodland native plant. On April 1st at Prairie Moon Nursery, see the early spring "waterleaf" as it shows its 'water drops' growing in a moist woodland.

  bumble bee on flower
Nathan Steffenson

Published on Jul 29, 2013

virginia Waterleaf mille lacs kathio 2007




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Afton State Park

Baker Park Reserve

Banning State Park

Beaver Creek Valley State Park

Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park

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Brownsville Bluff SNA

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Clear Lake SNA

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Clinton Falls Dwarf Trout Lily SNA

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Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

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John Peter Hoffman Spring Brook Valley WMA

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