Viewing Violets

“Surely as cometh the Winter, I know
There are Spring violets under the snow.”
-  R. H. Newell

 

As spring comes into her own, many wildflowers start to pop up all over.  By late April the wildflowers are in full swing with Virginia bluebells, jack-in-the-pulpits, trout lilies, trilliums and violets.  Ah the violets.  Yes they are a native plant / wildflower.  My violets grow low hugging the soil.  Before I even notice the foliage, I see the bloom.  And what a bloom.  Violets, violas and pansies are all part of the Violaceae family, but the real violets, they are these small dainty flowers that grow wild.  Most are purple.  Some are yellow or bicolor.

As I have been reading Stacy@Microcosm’s different views of crocuses, I have been thinking of a flower that is viewed so many ways.  Some view the violet as an old-fashioned flower loved for its beauty.  Others see it as a nuisance, a weed that invades their lawn every spring.  Some see the violet as a wonderful flower with much history and folklore, and still others find violets are a wonderful wild food like dandelion greens.

 

Wildflower Beauty

Viola sororia or the Common Blue Violet is native to eastern North America.  You might also know it as the Common Meadow VioletPurple Violet.  In the Language of Flowers, a Purple violet means “modesty”, “decency”, or “you occupy my thoughts”.  The beautiful flower head droops a bit which is one reason some think this flower means modesty.  A white violet has a different meaning:  “modesty”, “purity”, and “innocence”.

I adore watching these flowers pop out in spring and create a mass of color.  They love moist rich soils so if you find them growing it means your soil is in good shape.  And the better the soil, the more they will mass and create a ground cover.  Now that is my kind of plant; beauty, spreading power and native hardiness.

 

Weed

And while I consider this plant wonderful, there are many who do whatever they can to eradicate it.  Since it self-seeds freely, it can grow all over a lawn or garden until it wears the name, weed.  And if you do not mow your lawn until later in spring, it really will get a hold and take control.  But that is not a problem, because eventually as you mow, you kill the plant before it seeds.  Of course I want it to seed.  Can you imagine a lawn of violets and other lovely native low growing grasses.  This variety left even has burgundy foliage.  Now how can this ever be considered a weed?

 

History/Folklore

I have discovered a wonderful rich history for this plant dating back to ancient times.  The violet was considered the herb of Zeus, and in ancient Roman times women would mix violet’s with goat’s milk and put it on their faces for a beauty treatment. Shakespeare was fond of violets and you can find references to violets in many of his sonnets.  Napoleon was sometimes known as Corporal Violet because of his fondness for violets. When he was exiled on Elba, the violet became a symbol for his supporters. These supporters spread violets along the route when he returned to power after escaping from Elba. Today the violet is such a revered flower that it is the state flower of Wisconsin, Illinois, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.

Viola sororia has historically been used for medicine. The Cherokee used it to treat colds and headaches. In the early 1800s it was being used in the US  for coughs, sore throats, and constipation.  It was also said to be used to strengthen the heart, and calm anger.  A tea made of violets was used to rid one of a headache.

This is just some of the rich history of this dainty flower throughout the world.  For such a small little flower, it has held much magic and power in its bloom.

 

Food

Violets are sought after for their value as a vitamin rich food by naturalists, and those gardeners who know their added value.  The leaves and flowers contain more Vitamin C than oranges, and also have lots of  Vitamin A. These leaves and flowers can be used in salads, and the flowers are used to make jelly.

And it is not only humans who seek out violets for nourishment.  There are many insects, mammals and birds who love violets.  If you look at the veins in the bottom petal they are said to mimic landing lights that lead pollinators to the nectar. The flowers attract Mason bees, and the caterpillars of many Fritillary butterflies feed on the foliage. The seeds attract ants that help distribute them around, and game birds like wild turkeys and critters like rabbits, mice and deer occasionally eat the seeds.

 

 

 

So whether you view this plant as a wildflower with value as a bloom, food or medicine or you see it as a weed, critters in nature have figured out that violets are a spring beacon not to be missed.  I know I will be waiting for the show this April.  How about you?

 

You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.  ~Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons, 1964

 

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Come Join Us:

I hope you will join me for a very special meme, Seasonal Celebrations.  How do you celebrate the new season?  Are there special flowers or are special celebrations you attend or create?  It can be anything you want it to be.  And it seems so appropriate to collaborate with Beth and her Garden Lessons Learned meme.  What lessons have you learned this past season of winter here in the North and summer in the South.  Then tell us about your wishes, desires and dreams for the new season.

The rules are simple.  Just create a post that talks about lessons learned and/or seasonal celebrations.  If you are joining in for both memes please leave a comment on both our blog posts.  Or if you are choosing to join only one meme, leave a comment on that blog post.  Make sure to include a link with your comment.

Beth and I will do a summary post of our respective memes on the solstice or equinox.  And we will keep those posts linked on a page on our blog.  Your post should be linked in the weekend before the solstice to give us enough time to include your post in our summary.  And if you link in a bit late, never fear we will include it on the special blog page.

The pictures here can be used in your post, or add the widgets to your blog.  My widget, Seasonal Celebrations, is pictured above.  You can grab the code at the bottom of my sidebar.  Hopefully the code should work.  It is a painting (done digitally) of my pond.  Beth’s widget, pictured here, is available on her blog.  So won’t you join in the celebration!!

 



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Next up on the blog:   The 15th is GBBD and my color post about the color yellow.  Monday is another Garden Book Review and the 21st is my Seasonal Celebrations Revealed post.  I hope you will join me in posting how you celebrate the coming new season for Seasonal Celebrations.  And don’t forget to join Beth@PlantPostings for Garden Lessons Learned.

Please  join me for my weekly posts, every Tuesday, at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.

I am joining Michelle@Rambling Woods for her wonderful weekly meme Nature Notes.  Check out the great posts weekly.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

47 thoughts on “Viewing Violets

  1. What a versatile plant. Certainly a sign of a healthy environment I would welcome them to my garden anytime. If they can grow in my red clay they are a winner in my book! It is interesting that such a delicate flower would linked to men with such strong personalities. I don’t think I have ever had violet tea before but I may try it next time I have a headache.

    • They do prefer more humusy soil but since clay is moisture retentive they should be OK although they may not spread as readily…I amended my clay soil for them, but I bet I wouldn’t need to. I have enjoyed learning about the wildflowers and never heard of the tea…I plant to make sure they spread as ground cover in parts of the garden and add them to salad and try the tea as well…glad you enjoyed the violets

  2. I love this flower, the violet. It’s comfortable like an old friend. The quote is funny, but I am suspicious of some trees! I have a sumac in my yard that keeps trying to send up new shoots and I’m very suspicious of its motives. I’m thinking invasion….
    Elaine

  3. Violets! In our garden they just appear, always in a position which suits their simplicity. I cant imagine what’s not to like, they never misbehave, is it because our soil is not very rich, I am not so sure. In my earlier years of gardening I would have paid little attention to them thinking the annual Violas were more impressive, how time changes perception.

    • They are a simple little wildflower and what’s not to like…I think the obsession with the lawn in the US makes them a weed…as you know most folks have front and back lawns and any weed or flower out of place is an abomination…so that is the thought with violets…violas are the much preferred and showier relative for sure!

  4. I love seeing the violets in my garden. But I’ve never seen any white ones! Lovely. I would love to see an entire lawn of violets. That would be so pretty! Even their foliage is beautiful. As you can tell, they are not invasive in my garden, so I only see their good side.

    • I think as a wildflower they like to create great stands of themselves to be admired..certainly a bit aggressive given the right conditions but never invasive…too cute a flower to ever be a pain I think…so glad you enjoy them as much as the wildlife does!!

  5. I can see why people might not want dandelions in their lawn, and I can almost understand not liking clover, but I can not at all imagine why anyone would dislike violets! That is taking lawn mania to the point of insanity. Like Karin said, it does seem odd that such unassuming, delicate flowers (“shrinking violets”) would be linked to people like Napoleon. I enjoyed seeing all these different views, Donna!

  6. I intentionally planted these in my garden because I love them as a ground cover, and the spring violet blooms are so lovely. From time to time, I do regret having planted them because they can be very invasive. And I do end up removing quite a bit as they begin to crowd and spread to my neighbor’s yard. Should I ever have a yonder field, I would plant them there and admire them from afar…

    I use these in salads…the blooms are especially tasty. I really appreciated the history/folklore info…very informative.

    • Michelle I intentionally planted them as well. I hope to move them around a bit and may seed them into my meadow as well…they are aggressive in one area of the garden.

  7. My grandfather had a habit of picking little bunches of violets for my grandmother each spring, so to me this flower could never be considered a weed.

    Sadly, though, I don’t have any scented violets in my garden. I will need to work on that, I think.

  8. I am lucky to have them growing wild in my yard. I get the common blue violet and a white one too. What their names are I do not know, but I do enjoy seeing them flower. If they get out of bounds I just move them and they seem to adjust fine.

  9. I think what most hit me was that people want to eradicate them from their lawns. I never ran across anyone that ever did or said anything derogatory about violets. I love finding them and remember picking them as a kid.

  10. I love violets. When I was little it was my favorite flower. I have some old old tea cups from my grandmother that have violets on them….very special. I never rid my yard of violets….had a few in the Virginia garden, so far none here in SC.

  11. Hi Donna, we have lots of flowering weeds but we really don’t have much dark violets or blue flowers here. I observed they are more common in temperate climes. At least we have the blue orchids, which i will prefer anytime than other flowers available.

  12. I really take a second look at lawns with all of the sweet violets growing in them but in my lawn I’ve tried hard to eradicate them to no avail. Slowly, but surely I am coming to terms with ‘weeds’ in my lawn. It has been a tough battle though. The fact they help the local butterfly population helps me to accept them a little more:<

  13. Well, the Wood Violet is the Wisconsin State Flower so I can’t help but like it for that, and because it’s a native. But I do understand the frustration of it taking over a planned perennial bed. Mostly, I just let it grow where it will, and plant other things around it. Violets are beautiful flowers! Thanks for mentioning the meme again, Donna. Looking forward to your GBBD. And I can actually participate with a respectable post this year, unlike last year. :)

    • Great view of a violet in Wisconsin…I had my GBBD post all set thinking I wasn’t going to have much to show…so it goes as I set it, but boy things are blooming fast…mostly crocus and dwarf iris…I expect lots more by weekend.

  14. I often scoff at the notion of a successful plant being dubbed a weed. I wish our native stream violets sowed themselves as freely as it sounds like this blue one does. I’d much rather stare at a lawn of violets, than grass.

  15. It’s a wildflower in other people’s gardens. It’s a weed in mine. I’m kidding. I love the scented ones for sure. Your photos are lovely.

    • Grace you gave me quite a chuckle…I think as gardeners we just can’t imagine such a cute flower is a weed…to non-gardeners with their lawns it is…glad you enjoyed the post!

  16. I discovered yesterday that I have some violets flowering around the grass garden. Mine are more intensely coloured then yours though. The darker they are the sweeter they smell. I love them. We have nurseries entirely dedicated to violet cultivation and collecting. The italian most famous varieties are Viola d’Udine and Viola di Parma. The first one is a double form, very dark and scented and it is also covered in sugar and eaten like a candy. You can find more here if you like, maybe use google translator:
    http://www.trafioriepiante.it/infogardening/poltrona/ViolaOdorata.htm

    • Alberto they are gorgeous violets…so much fancier and colorful….I have heard of the sugar coated violets ….whole nurseries devoted to them is amazing…what an incredible history and flower in Italy! Thx for the link. My web browser, Chrome, gives you the option to translate right away so it was easy to read. You are lucky to find these violets in your garden.

  17. I love these flowers and would never consider them weeds
    I don’t get why so many people want their lawns to look perfect, I love nature the way nature is :)
    thanks for all the wonderful info

  18. Thank you for adding this post to Nature Notes and I enjoyed reading the comments from other gardeners. I would love to have them or anything other than lawn. Right now the front lawn is mostly moss as the patch near the blue spruce took over with the mild winter..it gets too much sun in the summer, but I wouldn’t mind a moss lawn either…Michelle

    • I had a lawn like that full of moss, so I got rid of it and planted gardens…now my current garden has some grass, but I might be tempted to try and add violets more to it…clover grows rampant in it right now. A moss lawn sounds nice too.

  19. I wish you could see the wildflowers growing on Arabia Mountain right now. I intend to do a post on them soon. They are spectacular! You may go to my blog and see some of the photos now, but will do a more detailed one soon!

  20. I love the violets that pop up in my garden (and in the walkway near the garden!) each spring before a whole lot else is happening. I would be delighted if they would gain a foothold in the “lawn” where they could be very happy among the spring phlox, bluets, oxeye daisies, and hawkweed. Maybe I should try transplanting some to give them the idea. I’m with Alistair — what’s not to like?

    • And I’m with both of you. I found it odd the first time I heard someone call a violet a weed. I am definitely moving some clumps around to make a lovely ground cover. Maybe they can squeeze out some of the clover.

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