Wild Violet – Overview of Facts, Growing Conditions
August 29, 2019
Wild violet is a small purple/blue flowers that emerge in early spring. They commonly grow in yards, gardens, borders of forests. But generally don’t take over an area unless they are left unchecked for a long time.
If you are reading this then it is likely Spring time in your area. And you are probably wondering what all of those pretty little purple flowers are popping up in yards and wild areas. Congratulations! Spring is definitely here as violets are one of the surest signs of warmer temperatures to come.
Wild Violet Facts
It is native to North America, from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean
Has been used medicinally by Native Americans and Early settlers
Spreads via seed and Rhizomes
Both young leaves and flowers are edible
A really cool evolutionary trick developed by the violet is that the seeds attract ants. The ants in turn carry seeds to new locations furthering their spread.
Violet Identification and Physical Description
Wild violet, (Viola soroia) is a herbaceous perennial plant that have the leaves and flowers come straight up from the roots / rhizomes. They make a small basal rosette of leaves. If they are allowed to grow unchecked, this rosette can become about 6″ (15 cm) across and 3-4″ (10 cm) tall.
The green leaves of wild violet have a very unique shape. They are kind of a strange roundish, oval or even heart shape. But they wrap around their stem, almost forming a kind of funnel or incomplete bowl. The edges will be serrated.
The flowers of wild violet are dark purple, with 5 petals. The inner-throat of the flower is white. Two petals are on top, two on the side, and a final petal at the bottom. It is thought that the 5th petal on the bottom is for insects/pollinators to land on. The flowers will bloom for 4-6 weeks. Once the temperatures get hot, above 80 F (27 C) the flowers generally fade and disappear.
There is an additional self-pollinating flower (cleistogamous) that will produce seeds. The seeds are thrown from the flower when the pod is breached from seed maturation or other forces acting upon it.
The roots of this flower are shallow rhizomes, which are thick and spread horizontally. This allows another means for the flower to reproduce, as it can form a large grouping if left unchecked from competition or herbicides.
Wild Violet Propagation
Violets can be propagated by seed or division. The seeds of wild violets are thrown from the plant when mature. This can be a difficult seed to germinate, so it is best to let mother nature do it for you. Just scatter seeds in the general area you wish to grow them, then watch for heart shaped leaves to emerge in spring/summer. But, if you are dead set on germinating the seeds yourself, then OK.
Soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water, then winter sow the seeds in seed starting mix or potting soil. Leave outside throughout the winter, as this plant needs at least a two-month cold/moist stratification period to break dormancy. Alternatively, you can stratify them in the refrigerator using a moist paper towel inside a zip-lock bag, or use moist sand.
For root division, or just digging up random violet plants – it is best to do this in the fall. Plants generally do not survive transplanting when blooming or making seeds. It is therefore recommended to only divide or transplant established flowers when the plant is approaching or is dormant. Since this is an early Spring blooming flower, it should not be dug up in Spring, as all of the plants energy is going into producing the flower.
Grow and Care
The native violet, Viola sororia preferred living conditions is in full sun or partial shade and moist/medium soil. Hence, it is common to find them along forest roads, open woods, and in lawns. They grow best in moist to medium soil. And seem to be able to tolerate clay, but like most plants, do best in black fertile loam.
Since they are able to spread via rhizomes, they have the potential to become invasive. They spread within lawns quite readily, as many of you have probably observed. But since they are native plants, they are very well adapted to the temperate regions of Eastern North America. That means that they are generally not very susceptible to disease, and will most often thrive given the right conditions.
These can make a stunning display in mass plantings, as you will essentially have a purple carpet of flowers that will last for one month to six weeks long. They are an early Spring bloomer, and could very well be used as a compliment to our other early Spring bloomers you should have in your garden.
Bees do visit the flowers, but not heavily. Rabbits and deer will eat foliage of this plant. The most interesting interaction with wildlife to me is that ants will actually carry the seeds off, and help spread the plant. Many game birds eat the seeds, such as doves, quail, and turkey. Turkey also eat the leaves and roots.
Note – since this plant is generally considered a weed on people’s lawns, you should make sure that no chemicals have been sprayed on this plant prior to harvesting. Also, the roots, fruit/seeds of this plant are poisonous and should not be consumed.
The flowers and young leaves are edible, and reportedly high in vitamin A & C. They can be used as garnish, in salads, or used to make a tea. Additionally, you can make jams and other items from the flowers.
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