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FutureStarrSharp Leaved Hepatica
Hepaticas are among the first flowers to bloom in the spring. Sharp-lobed Hepatica and Round-lobed Hepatica have gone through a couple of name changes, at one time Hepatica acutiloba and H. americana respectively, and more recently considered different varieties of the same species, Hepatica nobilis var. acuta and var. obtusa respectively. Now they are different species again, in the Anemone genus, and closely related to the European species Anemone hepatica. The easiest way to differentiate Sharp-lobed from Round-lobed is—you guessed it—the round or pointed tips on leaves. The flowers are much the same and, while the tips of the bracts on Sharp-lobed may be more pointed than on Round-lobed, this can be subtle so is not necessarily a reliable distinction. Their ranges overlap significantly and may be found in the same habitat at the same time of year, though Round-lobed Hepatica may be found on drier sites in more acidic soils.
Allison, from the images you sent, what you found is definitely round-lobed hepatica, A. americana. You can clearly see the rounded lobes on the leaves near the bottom of one of your images. The flower color does range from white to a fairly deep blue-violet so you did encounter the whole spectrum there. So no new discovery for Cass County--this time! The flowers of Sharp-Lobed Hepatica bloom earlier than most spring-blooming wildflowers of woodlands. They are delicately attractive and have a tendency to blow about on their slender stems in the wind. Another native variety of this plant species is Hepatica nobilis obtusa (Round-Lobed Hepatica), which has a very similar appearance, except that the lobes of its basal leaves are well-rounded rather than pointed. This latter variety is apparently restricted to NE Illinois.
Sometimes these two varieties intergrade where their ranges overlap. Some authorities refer to Sharp-Lobed Hepatica as Hepatica acutiloba, while Round-Lobed Hepatica is referred to as Hepatica americana. Another common name for Hepatica is Liverleaf, which refers to the appearance and shape of the leaves.Hepatica can be identified by the distinctive, mottled leaves which turn a crimson color in the fall. In late winter, the bright red color of last year's leaves are a good indication of where the new blooms will appear come spring. The appearance of the leaves has inspired another common name, "Liverleaf." The name references the perceived similarity of the leaf shape to the human liver. Ancient herbalists believed in the "Doctrine of Signatures," the idea that the cures to medical ailments could be found in the plants that resembled the diseased human body part. Hepatica was creatively imagined to be shaped like a liver, and as such, it was historically used to treat ailments of the liver. Like many plants believed to have medicinal qualities, Hepatica was almost over-harvested to the brink of extinction. Modern medical science has shown Hepatica to have no medical efficacy, and the Doctrine of Signatures has also since been proven to be pseudoscience. (Source: www.prairiemoon.com)