Photo by Melody

Hydrolea ovata: A U.S. native that deserves a closer look

By Jacqueline Cross (libelluleNovember 20, 2008

Hydrolea ovata is a sweet little native that will do well as a marginal or submerged plant addition to your pond.

Gardening picture

Hydrolea ovata is native to the United States. This endangered [1] plant is an aquatic, perennial herb

that grows
wild along ponds, streams and rivers. It can also be found in low-lying, consistently wet wooded areas, such as swamps. H. ovata growing at the water's edge is frequented by minnows that use the plant for cover and also seem to enjoy darting between the plants.

Hydrolea ovata 
Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden
member, dirtyhands2
H. ovata
forms a rhizome and will grow approximately 2 feet tall. At first glance, this plant appears to have soft fuzzy hairs on its stems and leaves; however, these may become spiny over time and can prick your skin if mishandled. Lovely clusters of small, deep blue flowers appear from midsummer through early fall to light up the bottomlands where it grows.

Some common names for H. ovata are blue waterleaf and false fiddle leaf. It is also known as pigweed in Arkansas where it can be found growing in the bottomlands of the White River National Wildlife Refuge.

At the USDA Plants website, H. ovata is listed as having been found growing in the following regions.
USDA distrubution map for H. ovata

Kentucky *endangered

Region Two:
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida,
Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi,
and Tennessee*special concern

Region Three:

Region Four:
Not found

Region Five:
Not found

Region Six:
Oklahoma and Texas

Region Eight:
Not found

Region Nine:
Not found

Region 0:
Not found

Region A:
Not found

Region C:
Not found

Region H:
Not found

"U.S. Department of Agriculture"*Please click on links to the USDA website for more information concerning regions. ..................................















 Hydrolea ovata
 Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden
member, Jeff_Beck

The Wetland Indicator Status chart found on the USDA plants database site designates H. ovata as OBL or; "Occurs almost always (estimated probability 99%) under natural conditions in wetlands." This is true of all the states except Kentucky where the wetland indicator status is, NI or "Insufficient information was available to determine an indicator status."

H. ovata by Clarence A. Rechenthin

Clarence A. Rechenthin

I have not grown this plant in my own garden but I did admire it while living in Texas and Arkansas (where I was told by Arkansas natives that it was called pigweed) long before I knew the name of it. If you would like to grow H. ovata in your own garden, plant in full sun to dappled shade in a wet location. They are best planted in groups because the spread of the plant averages approximately 3 to 6 inches, if that. They are tall (up to 2 feet) and narrow. If you do not have a pond, creek or swamp in your back yard, create a bog garden for this and other plants that like wet feet. Mix in some yellow and white blooming plants for contrast. H. ovata will really stand out if planted in front of Canna indica. The large leaves of the Canna lily will create a great backdrop for the blooms of H. ovata.

When in bloom, throngs of butterflies, bees and birds swarm around H. ovata. It is deer-resistant, making it a good choice for rural gardens. Smaller critters such as squirrels, groundhogs, raccoons and opossums tend to give it a wide berth as well.

It should be noted that H. ovata can be invasive under the right conditions. If grown in a contained area such as a bog garden where it can be controlled, it is well worth a try, especially for those native plant lovers around the U.S.

Hydrolea ovata
Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden

Happy Gardening~

Hydrolea ovata

LEFT: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service


Hydrolea ovata


RIGHT: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown.1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions.
Vol. 3: 72

Hydrolea ovata

More Information:

Dave's Garden Plant Files
USDA Plants Database
USDA Wetland Indicator Chart
[1] Endangered in Kentucky



  About Jacqueline Cross  
Jacqueline CrossI'm a native Floridian...feet planted in the shifting sands of northwest FL. but my heart strings are tightly knotted to the hills of Tennessee. I live with my poodle, Minnie Pearl, Zsa Zsa the cat who runs the whole show and a new addition, Kitty Belle. I'm a writer, gardener, quilter, cross stitcher, soapmaker and nature lover. Mother to 3 wonderful daughters & Nana to 6 perfect grandchildren. I also write for and was promoted to Feature Writer in the vegetable gardens section in 2008.

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