Herbs & Plants

Hydrophyllum capitatum

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Botanical Name : Hydrophyllum capitatum
Family: Hydrophyllaceae
Genus: Hydrophyllum
Species: H. capitatum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Solanales

Common Name : Ballhead Waterleaf or Waterleaf

Habitat :Hydrophyllum capitatum is native to Western North America from British Columbia to Utah.It naturally occurs in the western region of the United States (California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming) as well as Alberta and British Columbia in Canada.The plant is found in thickets, woodlands, and moist, open slopes, from the foothills and valleys to well up in the mountains.

Hydrophyllum capitatum is a perennial plant growing to  10-40 cm tall, loosely stiff- or partly flat-stif-hairy.Stems solitary or few, delicately attached to
the rather deep-seated and very short rhizome from which the cluster of fleshy, fibrous roots descends.


Leaves are mainly basal, few and relatively large, long-stalked, some of them attached below the ground, the
blade sometimes 10 cm wide and nearly 15 cm long, pinnatifid into 7-11 stalkless leaflets, the upper joined, the  lower ones separate. Leaflets somewhat pointed to more often blunt, with rounded, entire edges, or commonly some of them with one or two large, slightly forward-pointing, entire-edged side lobes.Flowers are several in dense, coiled heads well below the leaves, the main stalks short, seldom any of them over 5 cm long, often bent back in fruit. The 5 calyx lobes with long, stiff hairs. Corolla 5-9 mm long, white to more often lavender or purplish blue. The 5 stamens long, anthers 0.6-1.3 mm long. Flowering time is April-July.

Flowers of Hydrophyllum capitatum, has whitish to purplish blue-coiled 5 to 9cm bell-shaped corollas. Each flower also has 5 hairy calyx lobes. There are 5 long stamens per flower with anthers .6 to 1.3mm long. The flowers bloom from March to July and obtain their purple color during this season. The fruit of the Ballhead Waterleaf are capsules with 1 to 3 seeds each.

Hydrophyllum capitatum grows in extremely moist and shady environments in fine or medium textured soil. This plant tends to grow in open woodlands and slopes. It is salinity intolerant and lives in an environment that ranges in pH from 6.4 to 7.8. The Ballhead Waterleaf is a perennial plant adapted to a precipitation zone that ranges from 16 to 30m/yr and a temperature of -28 Fahrenheit and higher

Edible Uses:
The Indians and settlers cooked the leaves and the roots of plants belonging to the genus Hydrophyllum, which includes the Ballhead Waterleaf, for greens. The occurrence of this in the Northeaster region of the United States provides a plausible explanation for why the plant only occurs in the Western region today.

They are best boiled in 1-2 changes of water and served with vinegar. Some tribes boiled or steamed the large and fleshy roots of ballhead waterleaf with the bulbs of yellow glacier lily.

Medicinal Uses:
The large leaves can be applied to minor wounds as a protective field dressing and have a slightly astringent quality that makes them useful in poultice form for insect bites and other minor skin irritations

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


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