Viola sororia

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Viola sororia

Secure  (NatureServe)[1]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Violaceae
Genus: Viola
V. sororia
Binomial name
Viola sororia
  • Viola affinis Leconte
  • Viola chalcosperma Brainerd
  • Viola floridana Brainerd
  • Viola latiuscula Greene
  • Viola palmata var. sororia (Willd.) Pollard
  • Viola papilionacea Pursh
  • Viola priceana Pollard
  • Viola rosacea Brainerd
  • Viola septentrionalis Greene
  • Viola wilmattiae Pollard & Cockerell
Viola sororia herbarium specimen.

Viola sororia (/vˈlə səˈrɔːriə/ vy-OH-lə sə-ROR-ee-ə),[5] known commonly as the common blue violet, is a short-stemmed herbaceous perennial plant native to eastern North America. It is known by a number of common names, including common meadow violet, purple violet, woolly blue violet, hooded violet, and wood violet.[5]

This perennial plant is distributed in the eastern half of the United States, Canada, and a part of eastern Mexico.[6] Its native habitats are rich, moist woods, and swamps located in the eastern half of the United States and Canada.[7] Its cultivar 'Albiflora' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[8]

Self-seeding freely in lawns and gardens, it can be considered a weed by some. Cleistogamous seed heads may also appear on short stems in late summer and early autumn.


Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) color variant
Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) color variant

Viola sororia is a short-stemmed, herbaceous perennial plant that grows in well-drained and shady habitats.[5] This 15–25 centimeters (6–10 in) wide violet has glossy, heart-shaped leaves and are topped with purple flowers with white throats. The lower three petals are hairy and the stem of the flower droops slightly.[7] These flowers can be found in the woods, thickets, and near stream beds.[5] V. sororia can live and reproduce for more than 10 years.[9] Blooming in the spring and summer (April–August), Viola sororia can be found in colors of white, blue, or purple.[5]


Hairless common blue violets with purple flowers and bearded spurred petals have been variously called Viola sororia, Viola affinis, and Viola pratincola.[10][11] In the Chicago region, this hairless form is most frequently found in weedy areas such as old fields and lawns. Hairy purple violets with blue flowers have been called "true" Viola sororia and are rarely seen outside of remnant wooded areas.[10]

A form with white flowers that have a purple center has been called Viola sororia f. priceana (Confederate violet).[citation needed]

Viola sororia has several named hybrids:[4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Viola septentrionalis, Sainte-Geneviève-de-Batiscan, Quebec, Canada

Viola sororia is found primarily in forests and is interfertile, meaning it is likely and able to breed with other closely related Viola species.[9] The species grows on forest floors and can adapt to sunny or partly shady conditions.[7] The leaves develop in the early spring when the surrounding tree crowns are not fully closed.[12] When the forest canopy closes, the leaves continue to grow and develop.[12] Soils preferred by V. sororia are moist, rich, and well drained.[7]


Fritillary butterfly caterpillars, such as the great spangled fritillary and variegated fritillary, are dependent on these and other plants in genus Viola. The plants serve as food for wild turkeys, rabbits, deer, livestock, the mourning dove, the bobwhite, and the white-footed mouse.[13][14]

Native bees such as the mason bees, sweat bees, and the violet specialist mining bee, visit the Viola sororia plant for its nectar in the spring.[15] Butterflies are also known to pollinate the species.[5] These pollinated flowers result in a normal seed distribution like most flowering plants; however, Viola sororia produces seeds in the late summer from a process called cleistogamy.[15] This means that it self-fertilizes inside the plant, without opening.[15] The seed capsules eventually turn upright, open, and shoot out their seeds as far as 2.7 meters (9 ft) away from the plant.[15]

Violets employ myrmecochory, which is the process of seed dispersal by ants. The seeds are coated with ant-attracting protein- and lipid-rich morsels, also known as elaiosomes. The ants then gather the seeds and take them back to their nests. When the coating is consumed by the ants, the seed is discarded into their waste piles and can germinate.[16] V. sororia has no known toxicities. It has a low fire tolerance,[17] and has no serious insect or disease problems. Its foliage usually declines in hot summers.[18]

Lawn weed[edit]

Viola sororia is known as a wild violet that may be hard to control due to its sometime weedy nature. Halauxifen-methyl has shown promising results on hard-to-control weeds, including Viola sororia.[19]


Beyond its use as a common lawn and garden plant, Viola sororia has historically been used for food and for medicine.[citation needed] The flowers and leaves are edible, and some sources suggest the roots can also be eaten.[citation needed] The Cherokee have used it to treat colds and headaches.[citation needed] Rafinesque, in his Medical Flora, a Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America (1828–1830), wrote of Viola sororia being used by his American contemporaries for coughs, sore throats, and constipation.[citation needed]

Viola sororia can be used to decorate walkways and park areas.[5] It is used as a wildflower in lawns, though some consider Viola sororia a weed despite its being a resource for pollinators[5] and importance as host plant to various fritillary butterflies, including the greater fritillaries in genus Speyeria.

Viola sororia is high in vitamins A and C.[7] The young leaves and flower buds can be eaten raw or cooked, or brewed for a tea.[20] It may also work as an anti-inflammatory and has been used topically for skin conditions.[20] Viola sororia is deer resistant.[7]


Viola sororia leaves and flowers are edible in moderation and also safe to plant around pets.[7]

Cultural significance[edit]

V. sororia is the state flower of Illinois, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.[21] The genus Viola is known as a symbol of love and modesty by poets such as Sappho, Shakespeare, and Christina Rossetti.[16] A French play that achieved popularity on Broadway in the late 1920s, The Captive, featured a lesbian character who won over her love interests with violets.[16][22] This inspired a violet fad among the play's supporters, and possibly a violet boycott among its detractors. It is the reason the violet is sometimes called "the lesbian flower".[22]



  1. ^ NatureServe (2 June 2023). "Viola sororia". NatureServe Network Biodiversity Location Data accessed through NatureServe Explorer. Arlington, Virginia: NatureServe. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  2. ^ "Viola sororia Willd.". Tropicos. Missouri Botanical Gardens – via The Plant List. Note that this website has been superseded by World Flora Online
  3. ^ "Viola sororia var. missouriensis (Greene) L.E.McKinney". Tropicos. Missouri Botanical Gardens – via The Plant List. Note that this website has been superseded by World Flora Online
  4. ^ a b Little, R. John; McKinney, Landon E. (2015). "Viola sororia". In Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.). Flora of North America North of Mexico (FNA). Vol. 6. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press – via, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Viola sororia (Common Blue Violet, Confederate Violet, Dooryard Violet, Florida Violet, Hooded Blue Violet, Hooded Violet, Meadow Violet, Missouri Violet, Purple Violet, Sister Violet, Violets, Wild Violet, Wood Violet, Woolly Blue Violet) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox". Retrieved 2021-11-12.
  6. ^ "Viola sororia | International Plant Names Index". Retrieved 2021-11-18.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin". Retrieved 2021-11-16.
  8. ^ "Viola sororia 'Albiflora' (Vt)". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  9. ^ a b Solbrig, O.T.; Newell, Sandra J.; Kincaid, D.T. (July 1980). "The Population Biology of the Genus Viola: I. The Demography of Viola Sororia". The Journal of Ecology. 68 (2): 521. Bibcode:1980JEcol..68..521S. doi:10.2307/2259420. JSTOR 2259420.
  10. ^ a b Wilhelm, Gerould; Rericha, Laura (2017). Flora of the Chicago Region: A Floristic and Ecological Synthesis. Indiana Academy of Sciences.
  11. ^ Reznicek, A. A.; Voss, E. G.; Walters, B. S., eds. (February 2011). "Viola". Michigan Flora Online. University of Michigan Herbarium. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  12. ^ a b Antlfinger, Ann E.; Curtis, William F.; Solbrig, Otto T. (September 1985). "Environmental and Genetic Determinants of Plant Size in Viola sororia". Evolution. 39 (5): 1053–1064. doi:10.2307/2408733. ISSN 0014-3820. JSTOR 2408733. PMID 28561509.
  13. ^ Hilty, John (2020). "Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia sororia)". Illinois Wildflowers. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  14. ^ Wheeler, Justin. "Plants for Pollinators: Violets".
  15. ^ a b c d "The Native Plant Society of New Jersey". Retrieved 2021-11-12.
  16. ^ a b c Nafici, Saara (13 May 2016). "Weed of the Month: Common Blue Violet". Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Retrieved 2021-11-16.
  17. ^ "USDA Plants Database". Retrieved 2021-11-18.
  18. ^ "Viola sororia - Plant Finder". Retrieved 2021-11-30.
  19. ^ Thoms, Adam; Pease, Ben (2019-04-26). "Fall Timing of GameOn and Relzar Herbicide Application". Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farms Progress Reports. 2018 (1).
  20. ^ a b "medicinal herbs: WOOLY BLUE VIOLET - Viola sororia". Retrieved 2021-11-30.
  21. ^ 2003-04 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations: 1.10 State song, state ballad, state waltz, state dance, and state symbols.
  22. ^ a b Luu, Thuy (21 December 2021). "Queer Botany: The Sapphic Violet". University of Washington Botanic Gardens. Retrieved 24 June 2023.


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