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Environmental Studies

Viola sororia (Common Blue Violet) Violaceae

This blue violet is often found in rich woods, meadows, and near rivers in eastern North America. The flower is low-growing and small, rarely growing wider than a few inches. The petals and young leaves of the Hairy blue violet are edible.

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Photo By Casper Clausen using a Lytro Camera

Physical characteristics

Leaf: The common blue violet does not have leaves coming off the stem of the plant but it does have basal leaves originating from the underground rhizome. Because of this, the leaves do not often look to be apart of the same plant as the flower, but this is not the case.

Flower | Seeds: The petals of this flower are mostly blue in color with white near the center, but may also be white with blue centers. The blossoming flower has five petals: two upper, two lateral, and one bottom. Near the nectar of the flower, growing from the petals, are tiny hairs. This has several purposes. One is to keep rain and water droplets from diluting the nectar at the center. Another purpose of these hairs is to give insects something to hold on to, making the pollination process that much easier.

Life span: The blooming period of Viola sororia occurs from mid- to late spring and lasts about one and a half months. During the summer months, self-pollinating flowers without petals which are flung outward by mechanical ejection.

Ecological characteristics

The common blue violet has a large distribution in across eastern North America. This map from the United States Department of Agriculture website shows the wildflower’s range in green.















Importance to the ecosystem


Copyright © 2011 by D. L. Nickrent (contact: nickrent@plant.siu.edu) [ref. DOL24135] Copyright © 2011 by D. L. Nickrent (contact: nickrent@plant.siu.edu) [ref. DOL24135]

Viola sororia serves as an occasional food source for wild turkey, bobwhite, mourning dove, and the white-footed mouse. These animals act as dispersive vectors and help to spread seeds from place to place through their excrement. Mamalian herbivores such as the white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbit, and livestock also eat the flower as a food source.(1)

Relationship with other species

Non-human: Viola sororia serves as a food source for wild game bird, rodents, and herbivorous mammals. Ants are attracted to the soft white seeds and act as a distributive vector.(2)

Humans: Some people consider Viola sororia to be a weed due to its hardiness and persistent pervasiveness in nature and home lawns.

Pests: *Pathogens such as black spot disease must be treated with anticryptogamic solutions before first frost. One way is to remove diseased leaves and petals from the plant for destruction.

Other interesting facts

Mythological Origin and Culinary uses of Viola sororia
  • Viola sororia is a perennial plant, which means it can live for more than two years and in some cases much longer.(1)

  • Medicinal Uses are: poultice of leaves to allay headache pain, and an infusion of the plant to treat dysentary, caughs, and colds.(2)

Sources and Links

1. Hilty, J. Editor. 2013. Illinois Wildflowers. World Wide Web electronic publication. flowervisitors.info, version 04/2013.

2. Moerman, Daniel. Native American Ethnobotany. 879. Portland: Timber Press, 1998. Web. http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Viola sororia.

* Missing Citation

 Page drafted by Casper Clausen and Nora Logue