Waterleaf Family: Hydrophyllaceae
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Types of Flowers
Depending on the source, waterleafs are either a family (Hydrophyllaceae) or a subfamily of flowering plants.
Sixteen different waterleaf genera grow in North America, most of which share the physical characteristics of low growing, small blooming, seed producing annuals.
Baby Blue Eyes (genus Nemophila), rank among the most recognizable of all waterleaf species.
Nine or ten native species grow in most areas of the U.S, excluding New England, the Northeast and the Midwest.
Nemophila menziesiiin, pictured at the top of the page, grows in a couple of different habitats, including coastal scrub regions and inland meadows.
Labeling the Waterleaf genus Phacelia a robust group of flowering plants understates their hardiness.
Somewhere around one hundred and sixty different native species have been documented in all areas of North America to Alaska.
A native plant of the desert Southwest, Phacelia (Phacelia distans), also known as Wild Heliotrope, serves as the genera exemplar.
The flowers often grow fairly close to the ground in blue or light purple clusters. Like many species, they adapt to both low altitude and higher altitude environments.
The plant's adaptability, along with the flowers displaying a high degree of bee magnetism, has made it a popular cover crop on many agricultural lands.
In the garden, small areas of Phacelia serve as welcome mats for beneficial insects.
Nine native Waterleaf plants (genus Hydrophyllaceae) grow on forest floors and other wetlands environments around the United States.
They all share the property of being low growing plants with large leaves that produce a cluster of flowers from a single, branching stem.
Like many Waterleaf species, the flowers are accompanied by long stamen.
Ballhead Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum capitatum), grows in meadows, grassy areas, and forest edges around the entire Western United States.
Native Americans picked and consumed the roots and leaves. Then, as now, the plant's roots and leaves serve as a nutritious food source for local wildlife.
The picture directly below highlights the plant's pointed and mildly hairy leaves.
Dwarf Hesperochiron (Hesperochiron pumilus), one of two native Hesperochiron species, gets its name because of its diminutive stature. The flower often blossoms about one inch off the ground.
It typically looms from spring through summer, depending on the elevation of its habitat, principally wetland areas in plains and around forested areas of the Western United States.
The yellow center compliments the white petals.
© 2009-2011 Patricia A. Michaels