Parma violets belong to the more exotic branch of the violet family. First appearing in Italy, in the 16th century, most types of parma violets have lavender flowers of varying sizes.
The origins of the parma violet are unknown, though they have been shown to be derived from two different Viola alba strains. It was first imported into Naples in the latter part of the 19th century, when Count Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza took the plant to Udine. There are no records of his work, though it is widely believed that he deliberately crossbred to produce at least two varieties of parma. One of these is still available, whereas the other one is romantically believed to languish in some forgotten back garden somewhere, just waiting to be rediscovered.
Parma violets are widely believed to be sterile, and there is much store laid by their reproduction through cuttings. Armand Millet, a French violet grower, proved this belief to be a myth, however, and with the right conditions any sturdy violet could well produce a seed pod.
The delicate purple flowers of the parma violet plant also give their name to a delicate, violet-scented sweet Parma Violets, manufactured by Swizzels Matlow.