common blue violet (Viola sororia)
common blue violet
hooded blue violet
Viola floridana Brainerd
Viola latiuscula Greene
Viola palmata L. var. sororia (Willd.) Pollard
Viola papilionacea Pursh p.p.
Viola papilionacea Pursh var. priceana (Pollard) Alexander
Viola priceana Pollard
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for common blue
violet is Viola sororia Willd. There are several forms of Viola sororia with
differently colored flowers; these often grow in close proximity to each
other in a given area. The typical form that is described here, f. sororia,
has medium to dark violet flowers and rather well-rounded leaves. Some
authorities consider these different color forms to be separate species.
Some authorities also consider pubescent and non-pubescent specimens
of common blue violet to be separate species, but they tend to intergrade
in the field, possibly in response to levels of sunlight in a given habitat.
However, if this taxonomic distinction is accepted, then non-pubescent
specimens can be referred to as Viola pratincola (common blue violet),
while pubescent specimens can be referred to as Viola sororia (woolly
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This is a native perennial plant with the leaves and flowers emerg-
ing directly from the rhizomes, and forming a basal rosette. A typical ma-
ture plant may be 6" across and 4" high, with the flowers slightly higher
than the leaves.
Leaves: The leaves are individually up to 3" long and 3" across (exclud-
ing the long petioles), and vary in color from yellowish green to dark green,
depending on growing conditions. They are oval-ovate to orbicular-cordate
in shape, and crenate or serrate along the margins. Different populations of
plants can vary in the hairiness of their leaves – from nearly glabrous to
conspicuously hairy or pubescent.
Flowers: The flowers are about ¾" across, and consist of 5 rounded petals.
There are 2 upper petals, 2 lateral petals with white hairs (or beards) near
the throat of the flower, and a lower petal that func- tions as a landing pad
for visiting insects. The flowers of this form of early blue violet are medium
to dark violet. The inner throat of each flower is more or less white, from
which slightly darker veins radiate outward along the petals (particularly
the lower one). There is no noticeable floral scent.
Fruit/Seeds: During the summer, cleistogamous flowers without petals
produce seeds, which are flung outward by mechanical ejection from the
three-parted seed capsules.
Roots: The root system consists of thick, horizontally branched rhizomes;
there is a tendency to form vegetative colonies.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Common blue violet propogates itself
through reseeding; it can also vegetatively spread through branched
HABITAT TYPES: Natural habitats include moist to mesic black soil
prairies, open woodlands, woodland edges, savannas, and wooded slopes
along rivers or lakes. In developed areas, it can be found in lawns, city
parks, moist waste areas, and along hedges or buildings. Sometimes the
common blue violet is grown in flower gardens.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: The preference is partial sun or light
shade, and moist to average conditions, although full sun is tolerated if
there is sufficient moisture. The soil should be a rich silty loam or clay
loam with above average amounts of organic matter. The leaves have a
tendency to turn yellowish green when exposed to full sun under dry
conditions – this reaction is normal, and is not necessarily a sign of poor
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from mid-
to late spring, and lasts about 1-1½ months.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Common blue violet naturally occurs
throughout the eastern portion of the United States, from Florida to
Maine. It extends west through the Gulf Coast states, through the Ohio
Valley and the upper mid-West. It does not naturally occur in the Rocky
Mountain states, far southwestern states, and far western states. Although
it does not occur in the Canadian maritime provinces, it does occur in
Quebec, Ontario, and Saskatchewan provinces.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The flowers are not often visited by
insects (hence the need for cleistogamous flowers), but sometimes they
attract bees (e.g., Mason, Halictid), skippers, Syrphid flies, and other
insects. The Syrphid flies, however, feed only on stray pollen and are
non-pollinating. The caterpillars of many Fritillary butterflies feed on
the foliage, including Speyeria diane (Diana), Euptoieta claudia (var-
iegated fritillary), Speyeria aphrodite (Aphrodite fritillary), Boloria
bellona (meadow fritillary), and Boloria selene myrina (silver-border
fritillary). The seeds have soft appendages that attract ants, which are
in part distributed by them. Various upland gamebirds and small mam-
mals occasionally eat the seeds, including the wild turkey, bobwhite,
mourning dove, and white-footed mouse. Wild turkeys also eat the
leaves and fleshy roots of Viola spp. (Violets). Although it is not a pre-
ferred food source, mammalian herbivores occasionally eat the foliage
of violets, including the white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbit, and livestock.
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