Posted by Donna Donabella | Posted in Garden, Native Plants, Spring | Posted on 12-03-2012
Tags: garden, Native Plants, spring, views, woodland flowers
“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.
Viola sororia or the Common Blue Violet is native to eastern North America. You might also know it as the Common Meadow Violet, Purple 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.
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?
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.
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
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!!
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.
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