A very attractive flower that can form large colonies near streams; this colony was blooming in early June near a small stream in Peters Township. The flowers may be either violet-blue or white. The much less common Appendaged Waterleaf (H. appendiculatum) has a looser cluster of blue or blue-violet flowers and maple-shaped leaves, rather than the distinctively divided leaves of the Virginia Waterleaf.
Although Gray says the name Hydrophyllum (Greek for “Waterleaf”) is “of no obvious application,” other observers trace the name to the whitish blotches that may appear on the leaves, looking like water stains.
Gray describes the genus and the species:
HYDROPHYLLUM [Tourn.] L. WATERLEAF
Calyx 5-parted, sometimes with a small appendage in each sinus, early open in the bud. Corolla bell-shaped, 5-cleft; the lobes convolute in the bud: the tube furnished with 5 longitudinal linear appendages opposite the lobes, forming a nectariferous groove. Stamens and style mostly exserted; lilainents more or less bearded. Ovary bristly hairy (as is usual in the family); the placentae soon free from the walls except at the top and bottom. Capsule ripening 1-4 seeds, spherical.—Perennials, with petioled ample leaves, and wvhite or bluish-purple cymose-clustered flowers. (Name formed of hydor, water, and phyllon, leaf; of no obvious application.)
H. virginianum L. Smoothish, 2-7 dm. high; leaves pinnately divided; the divisions 5-7, ovate-lanceolate or oblong, pointed, sharply cut-toothed, the lowest mostly 2-parted, the uppermost confluent; peduncles longer than the petioles of the upper leaves, forked ; calyx-lobes narrowly linear, bristly-ciliate; flowers 1 cm. or less long; anthers oblong-linear. Rich woods, N. H. and w. Que., westw. and southw. May-Aug. H. patens Britton, indistinguishable as to foliage, is said to differ in its somewhat more ciliate petioles, appressed calyx-lobes, and more spreading corolla-lobes.