Viola sororia

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Viola sororia
Viola sororia in Wisconsin.jpg
Scientific classification edit
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 missouriensis 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, known commonly as the common blue violet, is a short-stemmed herbaceous perennial plant that is 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. Its cultivar 'Albiflora' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[4] This perennial plant species is distributed in the eastern half of the United States, Canada and a part of Eastern Mexico.[5] Their native habitats are rich, moist woods, and swamps located in the eastern half of the United States and Canada.[6]

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.[7] This 6-10 inch wide violet has glossy, heart-shaped leaves and are topped with purple flowers with white throats.[6] The lower three petals are hairy and the stem of the flower droops slightly.[6] These flowers can be found in the woods, thickets, and near stream beds.[7] This plant species can live and reproduce for over more than 10 years.[8] Blooming in the Spring-Summer, or the months of April–August, Viola sororia can be found in colors of white, blue, or even purple.[7]

Phonetic pronunciation[edit]

The most common way to pronounce Viola sororia is "vy-OH-la so-ROR-ee-uh".[7]


Hairless common blue violets with purple flowers and bearded spurred petals have been variously called Viola sororia, Viola affinis, and Viola pratincola.[9][10] In the Chicago region, this hairless form is most frequently found in weedy areas such as old fields and lawns.[9] Hairy purple violets with blue flowers have been called "true" Viola sororia and are rarely seen outside of remnant wooded areas.[9]

A form with white flowers that have a purple center has been called Viola sororia fo. priceana (Confederate violet).

Viola sororia has several named hybrids:[3]

  • Viola × bernardii (Viola pedaifida var. pedatifida × sororia)
  • Viola × bissellii (Viola cucullata × sororia)
  • Viola × cordifolia (Viola hirsutula × sororia)
  • Viola × conjugens (Viola sagittata var. sagittata × sororia)
  • Viola × insolita (Viola pedatifida var. brittoniana × sororia)

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Viola sororia are primarily found in forests and are interfertile, meaning they are likely and able to breed with other closely related species.[8] The species grows on the forest floor and environment can adapt to sunny or partly shady conditions.[6] The leaves on the Viola sororia develop in the early spring when the surrounding tree crowns are not fully closed.[11] Still, when the canopy closes, the leaves continue to grow and develop.[11] Soils preferred by V. sororia are moist, rich, and well drained.[6]


Beyond its use as a common lawn and garden plant, Viola sororia has historically been used for food and for medicine. The flowers and leaves are edible, and some sources suggest the roots can also be eaten. The Cherokee used it to treat colds and headaches. 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.

The leaves are high in vitamins A and C and can be eaten raw. The flowers have been made into jelly and candy.[12]

Viola sororia can also be used to decorate walkways and park areas.[7] It is used as a wildflower in lawns, though some consider Viola sororia a weed, despite being a resource for pollinators.[7] Viola sororia are also very high in vitamins A and C, which means they can be used in salads, cooked as greens, or even made into candies and jellies.[6] The young leaves and flower buds can be eaten raw or cooked, or brewed for a tea.[13] Viola sororia may also work as an anti-inflammatory and used topically for skin conditions.[13]Viola sororia is deer resistant.[6]


The caterpillars of fritillary butterflies feed on these plants. The plants also serve as food for wild turkeys, rabbits, deer, livestock, the mourning dove, the bobwhite, and the white-footed mouse.[14]

Native bees such as the Mason Bees, Halictid Bees, and the most common, the Mining Bee, visit the Viola sororia plant for its nectar in the spring time.[15] Butterflies are also known to pollinate from this species.[7] These pollinated flowers result in a normal seed distribution like most flowering plants; however, Viola sororia produce 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, opens, and shoots out their seeds as far as 9 feet away from the plant.[15]

Violets employ myrmecochory, which is the process of the seeds being dispersed by ants.[16] The seeds are coated with protein- and lipid-rich morsels, also known as elaiosomes, and they attract ants.[16] The ants then gather the seeds and bring them back to their nests.[16] When the coating is consumed by the ants, it is discarded into their waste piles, which is actually just planting the seeds.[16] Although they have no known toxicities, when it comes to fire ecology, they are not fire resistant, and their fire tolerance is low.[17] They have no serious insect or disease problems and their foliage usually declines in hot summers.[18] Myrmecochory, is a form of mutualism between the Viola sororia plant species and a certain ant species.[19] The diaspores have elaiosomes that attract ants and lead to the dispersal of the diaspores.[19] The appendages are nutrient-rich, which induces some ant species to carry the diaspores from the plant, back to their nest.[19] The elaiosome is consumed and the germinable seed is discarded.[19] Ants can increase the dispersal distance by moving diaspore away from the parent plant, move them from other competitors and predators, and relocate them to favorable sites for germination.[19] Within the ant nest, seeds may be protected from fire and seed predators, which is beneficial for the Viola sororia plant, considering they are not fire resistant.[19]


Viola sororia leaves and flowers are edible in moderation and also safe to plant around pets.[6]

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.[20]

Cultural significance[edit]

It 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 from Sappho to Shakespeare to Christina Rossetti.[16] In the 1930s, a Broadway play featured a lesbian character that won over the lady she was in love with, with violets.[16] This inspired a violet fad and was the reason why violets may also be known as "the lesbian flower".



  1. ^ "Viola sororia Willd.". Tropicos. Missouri Botanical Gardens – via The Plant List.
  2. ^ "Viola sororia var. missouriensis (Greene) L.E.McKinney". Tropicos. Missouri Botanical Gardens – via The Plant List.
  3. ^ 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 – via, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  4. ^ "Viola sororia 'Albiflora' (Vt)". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  5. ^ "Viola sororia | International Plant Names Index". Retrieved 2021-11-18.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin". Retrieved 2021-11-16.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "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.
  8. ^ 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. doi:10.2307/2259420. JSTOR 2259420.
  9. ^ a b c Wilhelm, Gerould; Rericha, Laura (2017). Flora of the Chicago Region: A Floristic and Ecological Synthesis. Indiana Academy of Sciences.
  10. ^ Reznicek, A. A.; Voss, E. G.; Walters, B. S., eds. (February 2011). "Viola". Michigan Flora Online. University of Michigan Herbarium. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Niering, William A.; Olmstead, Nancy C. (1985) [1979]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Knopf. p. 820. ISBN 0-394-50432-1.
  13. ^ a b "medicinal herbs: WOOLY BLUE VIOLET - Viola sororia". Retrieved 2021-11-30.
  14. ^ Hilty, John (2016). "Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia sororia)". Illinois Wildflowers.
  15. ^ a b c d "The Native Plant Society of New Jersey". Retrieved 2021-11-12.
  16. ^ a b c d e f May 13, Saara Nafici |; 2016. "Weed of the Month: Common Blue Violet". Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Retrieved 2021-11-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ "USDA Plants Database". Retrieved 2021-11-18.
  18. ^ "Viola sororia - Plant Finder". Retrieved 2021-11-30.
  19. ^ a b c d e f Gammans, Nicola; Drummond, Frank; Groden, Eleanor (2018-05-16). "Impacts of the Invasive European Red Ant (Myrmica rubra (L.): Hymenoptera; Formicidae) on a Myrmecochorous System in the Northeastern United States". Environmental Entomology. 47 (4): 908–917. doi:10.1093/ee/nvy069. ISSN 0046-225X. PMID 29771324.
  20. ^ 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).
  21. ^ 2003-04 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations: 1.10 State song, state ballad, state waltz, state dance, and state symbols.


External links[edit]