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English violet, garden violet, sweet blue violet, sweet violet, violette odorante

violet family

Habit Plants perennial, acaulescent, stoloniferous, 4–12 cm; stolons green, often rooting at nodes and forming leafy rosettes; rooted rosettes often develop into erect, rhizomatous caudex from which new stolons are produced; rhizome thick, fleshy. Herbs, annual or perennial, [subshrubs, shrubs, lianas, and trees], glabrous or hairy, hairs simple; taprooted or rhizomatous, sometimes stoloniferous.

0–20, prostrate to erect.


basal (and from stolons), 5–10, ascending to erect;

stipules lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, margins fimbriate, projections gland-tipped, apex acute;

petiole 2–17 cm, puberulent;

blade unlobed, ovate to orbiculate, 1.5–7 × 1.5–5 cm, base cordate, margins crenate, ciliate, apex obtuse to rounded, surfaces puberulent.

cauline or basal, (attached directly to rhizome, some Viola), alternate (and opposite in Hybanthus [and other genera]), simple or compound, stipulate [estipulate], petiolate or sessile;

blade unlobed or lobed.


1(–4)[–5]-flowered, axillary from leaf axils or scapose from rhizomes or stolons (or in racemes of umbels), pedunculate;

bracteoles usually present on peduncles, usually alternate.


4–15 cm, puberulent.


sepals narrow to broadly lanceolate, margins ciliate, auricles 3–4 mm;

petals deep to pale blue-violet, pale blue, or white on both surfaces, usually white basally, lateral 2 sparsely to densely bearded, lowest usually purple-veined, 12–22 mm, spur usually same color as petals, elongated, 5–7 mm;

style head beardless; cleistogamous flowers on prostrate or ascending peduncles.

bisexual [unisexual, plants dioecious], perianth and unequal, imbricate in bud [convolute], lowermost petal often larger with gibbous or elongated spur;

stamens 5, alternate with petals, surrounding ovary, connivent or syngenesious;

filaments 0–1 mm, filaments of 2 anterior stamens often with nectaries protruding into spur, anther dehiscence by longitudinal slits;

pistil 1, [2–]3[–5]-carpellate;

ovary superior, 1-locular;

placentation parietal;

ovules [1–2]8–75, anatropous, bitegmic, crassinucellate;

style [0–]1, usually enlarged distally, solid or hollow;

stigma 1 [3–5], with or without hairs.


capsular [berry, nut], 3-valved, dehiscence loculicidal.


sometimes purple-flecked, ovoid, 5–8 mm, puberulent.


brown, 3–4 mm.

[1–](3–)6–75, hard, embryo not developed at time of dispersal, spheroid or ovoid [strongly flattened], glabrous [hairy], some arillate, some with elaiosome [seeds winged in some woody vines].


= 20.

Viola odorata


Phenology Flowering Jan–May.
Habitat Lawns, roadsides, clearings, riparian habitats, parks, urban areas
Elevation 0–1700 m (0–5600 ft)
from FNA
CA; CT; ID; IL; MA; ME; MI; NC; NY; OH; OR; PA; RI; UT; WA; WI; BC; NS; ON; QC; Eurasia [Introduced in North America; introduced also in Australia]
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
[BONAP county map]

Viola odorata occurs in small colonies; individual plants are interconnected by stolons.

The flowers of Viola odorata are noted for their fragrance; some plants are more fragrant than others. It is native to Eurasia and assumed to be introduced in North America where it is usually found in areas associated with human habitation, including parks, lawns, and roadsides. A substantial industry revolved around the commercial production of violets in England, France, and the United States from prior to 1895 and into the 1900s (R. E. Coombs 2003). Viola odorata is sometimes found in remote locations not easily explained by anthropogenic influence, for example, Clearwater Mountains, Idaho. It is available through the nursery trade and is cultivated as a garden plant and occasionally reported as an escape. Viola odorata is grown in southern France for essential oils used in perfumes, flavorings, and toiletries, and also for the production of the sweet, violet-colored liqueur called parfait amour (V. H. Heywood 1978).

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Genera 23, species 1000–1100 (2 genera, 78 species in the flora).

The Violaceae is predominantly tropical with worldwide distribution. Most genera are monotypic or oligotypic and are restricted to the New World or Old World tropics (H. E. Ballard et al. 1998; G. A. Wahlert et al. 2014). Except for Viola, Hybanthus, and Rinorea, which together account for 98% of all species in the family, most genera are limited to one continent or island system (M. Feng 2005).

Violaceae has been placed in the Violales by most authors (A. Cronquist 1981; R. F. Thorne 1992; A. L. Takhtajan 1997). Based on data from cladistic analyses, it was included in the Malpighiales in 1998 (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group 1998, 2003, 2009).

The Malpighiales clade was first identified by M. W. Chase et al. (1993) in a phylogenetic analysis of nucleotide sequences from the plastid gene rbcL (K. J. Wurdack and C. C. Davis 2009). Currently, 35 families are included in Malpighiales (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group 2009). Molecular studies employing multiple gene regions have confirmed the monophyly of Malpighiales, which includes about 16,000 species (Wurdack and Davis). Relationships within Malpighiales remain poorly understood and it is the most poorly resolved large rosid clade (Wurdack and Davis).

Violaceae were previously organized into three subfamilies, Fusispermoideae, Leonioideae, and Violoideae (W. H. A. Hekking 1988; S. A. Hodges et al. 1995). Evidence confirms that Fusispermum is basal in Violaceae and belongs in the monotypic subfamily Fusispermoideae (M. Feng 2005; T. Tokuoka 2008) and Leonioideae should be subsumed in Violoideae (Feng; Feng and H. E. Ballard 2005; Tokuoka). All genera in Violaceae except Fusispermum are currently included in the subfamily Violoideae. Usually described as having an actinomorphic corolla, the calyx and corolla of Fusispermum were reported to actually be weakly zygomorphic (G. A. Wahlert et al. 2014).

W. H. A. Hekking (1988) divided subfamily Violoideae into two tribes, Violeae and Rinoreeae. Viola and Hybanthus, the only two genera in the flora area, are placed in the Violeae.

In a study of Violaceae based on plastid and nuclear DNA sequences (rbcL, atpB, matK, and 18s rDNA), T. Tokuoka (2008) found that monophyly of the family is strongly supported. A study of 39 species of Viola occurring primarily in China using chloroplast sequences trnL-trnF, psbA-trnH, rpL16, and ITS showed that “subgenus” Viola is not monophyletic (Liang G. X. and Xing F. W. 2010). Their data imply that 1) erect stems may be more primitive than stolons or rosettes, 2) species with stigmatic beaks might have been trends in sections Trigonocarpae and Adnatae, respectively.

A study of Violaceae based on plastid DNA sequences showed that most intrafamilial taxa from previous classifications of Violaceae were not supported, that previously unsuspected generic affinities were revealed, and that reliance on floral symmetry (that is, actinomorphy versus zygomorphy) alone provides misleading inferences of relationships and heterogeneous generic circumscriptions (G. A. Wahlert et al. 2014).

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

1. Plants caulescent; sepals not auriculate; upper 2 and lateral 2 petals not showy, 0.5–5 mm; lowest petal showy, narrowed at middle; stamens connate, lowest 2 filaments not spurred with nectary; seeds (3–)6–9.
1. Plants caulescent or acaulescent; sepals auriculate; upper 2 and lateral 2 petals showy, 5+ mm; lowest petal showy, not narrowed at middle; stamens connivent, but distinct, lower 2 filaments spurred with nectary that protrudes into petal spur; seeds 6–75.
Source FNA vol. 6, p. 140. FNA vol. 6, p. 106. Authors: R. John Little, Landon E. McKinney†.
Parent taxa Violaceae > Viola
Sibling taxa
V. adunca, V. affinis, V. arvensis, V. bakeri, V. beckwithii, V. bicolor, V. biflora, V. blanda, V. brittoniana, V. canadensis, V. canina, V. charlestonensis, V. clauseniana, V. cucullata, V. cuneata, V. douglasii, V. egglestonii, V. epipsila, V. flettii, V. frank-smithii, V. glabella, V. guadalupensis, V. hallii, V. hastata, V. hirsutula, V. howellii, V. japonica, V. labradorica, V. lanceolata, V. langsdorffii, V. lithion, V. lobata, V. macloskeyi, V. missouriensis, V. nephrophylla, V. novae-angliae, V. nuttallii, V. ocellata, V. orbiculata, V. palmata, V. palustris, V. pedata, V. pedatifida, V. pedunculata, V. pinetorum, V. praemorsa, V. primulifolia, V. prionantha, V. pubescens, V. purpurea, V. quercetorum, V. renifolia, V. riviniana, V. rostrata, V. rotundifolia, V. sagittata, V. selkirkii, V. sempervirens, V. septemloba, V. sheltonii, V. sororia, V. striata, V. subsinuata, V. tomentosa, V. tricolor, V. trinervata, V. tripartita, V. umbraticola, V. utahensis, V. vallicola, V. villosa, V. walteri
Subordinate taxa
Hybanthus, Viola
Name authority Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 2: 934. (1753) Batsch
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