Late May and early June in the deep woods is a time of comparatively few flowers. The time of profuse flowering in the shaded places has passed and bloom is at its best in the fields and uplands. Bright bloom, sturdy plants at home in the hot summer sun, these belong to summer. But back in the cool, damp woods the waterleaf is blossoming. It might be called the last of the true spring flowers. Here is delicacy, a plant which wilts quickly in open sun.
Hydrophyllum virginianum L.
May - June. Deep woods, ravines.
The plant of Virginia waterleaf is stiff, with grooved stems which hold erect the clusters of deeply pleated buds on their densely hairy little stalks. The flowers are five-parted, narrow bells with long, protruding hairy stamens - their pollen reaches the incoming bee even before it gets there. The color ranges from white to pale pink and greyed lavender. The Virginia waterleaf is visited by large bees; apparently the formation of the flowers prevents other insects from taking nectar when they are unfitted to transport waterleaf pollen to other waterleaf plants.
The leaves are compound, deeply sharp-toothed, dark green and veiny, and remain green in the shadowed woods all summer long. The fuzzy seeds form in early summer and are scattered to the ground where, if there have been rains enough to moisten the soil, the seeds begin to grow.