Virginia Water-leaf – Flowers

(Hydrophyllum Virginicum)

Flowers—White or purplish tinged, in a single or forking cluster on a long peduncle. Calyx deeply 5-parted, the spreading segments very narrow, bristly hairy. Corolla erect, bell-shaped, deeply 5-lobed ; 5 protruding stamens, with soft hairs about their middle ; 2 styles united to almost the summit. Stem : Slender, rather weak, 1 to 3 ft. long, leafy, sparingly branched, from a scaly rootstock. Leaves: Alternate lower ones on long petioles, 6 to to in. long, pinnately divided into 5 to 7 oblong, sharply toothed, acute leaflets or segments ; upper leaves similar, but smaller, and with fewer divisions.

Prferred !,Habitat–Rich, moist woods.

Flowering, Season—May—August.

Distribution—Quebec to South Carolina, west to Kansas and Washington.

So very many flowers especially adapted to the bumblebee are in bloom when the cymes of the water-leaf uncoil, like the borages, from their immature roll, that some special inducement to attract this benefactor were surely needed. In high altitudes the clusters became deeper hued; but much as the more specialized bees love color, food appeals to them far more. Accordingly the five lobes of each little flower stand erect to increase the difficulty a short-tongued insect would have to drain its precious stores ; the stamens are provided with hairs for the same reason; and even the calyx is bristly, to discourage crawling ants, the worst pilferers out. By these precautions against theft, plenty of nectar remains for the large bees. To prevent self-fertilization, pollen is shed on visitors, which remove it from a newly opened flower be-fore the (stigmas become receptive to any; but in any case these are elevated in maturity above the anthers, well out of harm’s way.

Early in spring the large lower leaves are calculated to hold the drip from the trees overhead, hence the plant’s scientific and popular names.