Snapshot: Waterleaf


If you walk in a damp, wooded area right now, you might come across some waterleaf, Hydrophyllum tenuipes. The entire plant is edible, technically, though the leaves are quite hairy. Numerous books claim that the roots were a traditional food, though there is no information out there (that I’ve seen) on how to prepare them, whether raw or cooked. Anybody who is reading this eat this plant? If so, please leave a comment!

A couple more clues to identifying waterleaf, which can be found from the Pacific Northwest as far east as Virgina, would be the psuedo-watermarks on the leaves, and the fact that each five-lobed leaf grows from a single stem in the ground.

Please don’t identify this plant without a guide, as reader Susan Marynowski pointed out that this plant bears a (vague) resemblance to the deadly poisonous water hemlock:

Some more ways you can tell them apart:
*Hemlock has leaf veins that end in the indentation between those teeth on the edge of the leaf. “Leaf vein to the tip, all is hip. Leaf vein to the cut, pain in the gut.” – Robyn Klein, herbalist.
*Hemlock leaves have sharply toothed leaflets. Waterleaf has rounded teeth.
*If the season allows, check the flowers. Hemlock is accompanied by distinctive umbels, which are clusters of flowers like so:

Waterleaf flower looks pretty different:

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