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Heavenly Violet-Blue Weekend
The American Violet Society's
Spring 2001 Eastern USA, Field Event
"Uncovering Violet Treasures" In The Dunbar Hills
Saturday, April 21, 2001

2001 The American Violet Society All Rights Reserved


By Elizabeth Scott
Photos By Gary W. Sherwin

The Violet Searchers
Vicki Johnson, Chris Blaxland, Kim Blaxland,
Norma Beredjiklian, Annebelle Rice, Harvey Ballard,
Andrew Stuart, Elizabeth Scott, Lisa Beranek,
Stephen Sherwin, Gary Sherwin

     The long-anticipated American Violet Society field trip of April 21, 2001, has come and gone, and what a wonderful day it was! Early Saturday morning, Gary met us at our respective hotels in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Our first stop was breakfast at Pechin Shopping Village, which has the largest volume of business of any market in the world. More impressive than that, its coffee is 10 cents a cup. 10 cents a cup, now that itself is worth a trip! In addition to the group of violet lovers, which included the violet authorities Harvey Ballard, Jr. of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and Kim Blaxland, there was a reporter and a photographer who were doing a story on our outing for the Pittsburgh Sunday Tribune. They were impressed by our dedication and enjoyed the trip as much as we did.

  Looking back on what the AVS accomplished on this violet exploration day reminds me of Sarah Ban Breathnach's words:

  "The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers.  But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.".

Norma Beredjiklian



Stopping To Look At A Flower
Looking at Violets




  After breakfast, we set out for Dunbar Creek. We turned off onto a dirt road along the creek and soon came to banners across the road reading "The American Violet Society, Welcome to 'Searching for Violets' in the Dunbar Hills". It was raining a little, but that didn't dampen our spirits. First we walked back down the road to see flowers we had passed in the car and then along the creek, progressing very slowly because we stopped every few feet to admire the flowers.

    Photographers had many opportunities for great shots (and photographers themselves were wonderful subjects for photos as they lay flat in the mud trying to get those great shots).

The Parking Lot
We're Here!




Kim Blaxland Studies Viola sororia
At Work




Crossing The Meadow
The Meadow






     Our path eventually led us to a meadow where we would have had lunch had it not been raining, a meadow covered with violets (V. sororia). Even in the rain it was beautiful, but it would have been a blue paradise if there had been some sunshine to bring out the flowers. We had to cross the creek to get there, and Gary had spent hours on Friday putting stones in for us to step across on. We did not believe we could do it, but we did, and not a single one of us fell in
  Gary, Thanks for a wonderful, well organized and thoroughly enjoyable (for the rest of us :>)) trip to Dunbar Hills. It's an outstanding area for violets, and you made the expedition a success with your knowledge, your thoughtfulness, and your great kindness. We're all indebted to you..

Harvey Ballard

Limestone Creek Crossing
We Cross Here



Talking About Things


    Along the way we saw hundreds of common blue violets, V. sororia, and a lot of the stemmed yellow violet, V. pubescens. Viola rotundifolia is the first violet of the year to bloom, and because the spring had been so cool there were still some little yellow blooms left. We also saw halberd-leaved violet, V. hastata, perhaps our most beautiful native violet, with its yellow flowers and pointed, silver-patterned leaves, and a lot of that little white beauty, Viola blanda. I sniffed many of the V. blanda blooms but couldn't detect any fragrance, although sometimes they are scented. A real treat was Viola rostrata, the purple long-spurred violet, which is so easy to recognize because of that spur.
Viola sororia
Viola sororia


Viola blanda
Viola blanda


Viola rostrata
Viola rostrata


Viola pubesens
Viola pubescens


Viola rotundifolia
Viola rotundifolia


Viola hastata
Viola hastata


Falling Waters
Falling Water


     Along the way we met a Native American in full traditional dress coming out of the woods. He was wearing a hand-made porcupine quill head-dress and carried a ceremonial deer-hoof rattle. He said he was from the Delaware tribe and told us about the different tribes that had inhabited the area. He had collected some plants, including violets, that he said were used medicinally by the Indians. This interesting scenario was enacted by Zack Ware, one of Gary's Eagle Scouts who is chairman of the ceremonial and dance team of an honor scouting organization which has as one of its goals, the study and preservation of  the Native American heritage. He seemed a little nervous, but any lone Native, meeting a group of European invaders would be.
Along The Stream



Wasn't it a wonderful day!  Gary's organization was superb.  We found the general background of history and local ecology to be as fascinating as the violets.  It is people like Gary who make this country so great.

Kim Blaxland



     Since we could not eat lunch on the violet meadow, we returned to the cars and had a tailgate lunch that Gary's sons Matthew and Stephen and Stephen's friend Lisa had prepared and set up for us. There were different breads and crackers, meats and cheeses and spreads (even a Violet spread!), and Gary's favorite wild cress as a garnish. There was a large kettle of steaming, home-made soup that was most welcome since we were all so wet, and coffee and hot water for tea, even mint leaves from Gary's garden for tea. I have never before had such an elegant lunch on a field trip, and the rain had stopped by that time so our sandwiches did not get soggy while we ate them.

     After lunch we went to an area of higher elevation and added two more violet species. I have already said that Viola hastata is our most beautiful violet, but we saw V. hirsutula, and I changed my mind when I saw that one and will assure you that it is our most beautiful violet. It is the southern wood violet with purple flowers and leaves that look silver on the upper surface because they are covered with white hairs and are purplish underneath. It doesn't occur in masses, but once you have seen it, you can walk along and spot it among the surrounding V. sororia plants because of those beautiful silvery leaves.

     The other violet we saw in this hilly, rocky area was a V. sagittata that engendered much discussion because several former species of stemless blue violets are now aggregated under the name V. sagittata. Those species were difficult to differentiate because they varied so much, having some characteristics of one so-called species and some of another, so they are now considered to be variations of just one species with the name V. sagittata. The violet we saw was most like what used to be called V. fimbriatula, with hairy leaves flat against the ground and just beginning to have lobes at the bottom, growing in exposed, rocky places rather than in moist woodlands like most violets. Harvey Ballard now calls this V. sagittata var. ovata.

Viola sagitata
Viola sagittata -f- ovata


Hepatica nobilis -f- acuta
Hepatica nobilis -f- acuta
(Acute Lobed Hepatica)


     Of course we saw many flowers other than violets and because of the cool weather there were even a few blossoms left of the early blooming hepatica and bloodroot. The hillsides were covered with trillium, mostly T. grandiflorum, but also wake-robin, the dark red Trillium erectum. We found wild ginger (Asarum canadense), wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), two toothworts (Dentaria diphylla and D. laciniata), Dutchman's breeches and squirrel corn (Dicentra cucullaria and D. canadensis), bishop's hat or mitrewort (Mitella diphylla), the lovely blue Jacob's ladder (Polemonium reptans), the nodding Perfoliated bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata) and many other flowers and ferns. The woodland edges were so beautiful with redbud in full bloom everywhere and dogwood just beginning to open.
Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot)
Sanguinaria canadensis


Uvula perfoliata
Trillium grandiflorum


Trillium erectum (Wake Robin)
Trillium erectum
(Wake Robin)




Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger)
Asarum canadense
(Wild Ginger)


Anemone quinquefolia (Wood anemone)
Anemone quinquefolia
(Wood Anemone)


Dentaria lacinata (Cut-leaved Toothwort)
Dentaria lacinata
(Cut-leaved Toothwort)




Dicentra cucularia (Dutchman's Breeches)
Dicentra cucularia
(Dutchman's Breeches)


Dicentra canadensis (Squirl Corn)
Dicentra canadensis
(Squirrel Corn)


MItella diphylla (Miterwort)
Mitella diphylla
(Miterwort / Bishop's Cap)


Uvula perfoliata (Perfoliated Bellwort)
Uvularia perfoliata
(Perfoliated Bellwort)


Caulophyllum thalictroides (Blue Cohosh)
Callophyllum thalictroides
(Blue Cohosh)


Claytonia virginica (Spring Beauties)
Claytonica virginica
(Spring Beauties)


Panax trifolia (Dwarf Ginseng)
Panax Trifolia
(Dwarf Ginseng)


Acorus calamus (Sweet-flag)
Acorus calamus


Erythronium americanum (Trout Lilly)
Erythronium americanum
(Trout Lilly)



     We were very tired and muddy by the end of the afternoon, but we had enough time to appear for dinner rested and clean. We had dinner at the historic Stone House built in 1822, which also had a sign welcoming the American Violet Society. I chose the trout from among the many entrees because Dunbar Creek is a noted trout stream and we had seen fishermen all along the stream. After dinner Harvey talked to us about distinguishing the varieties of V. sagittata. Then we looked at some of Gary's violet pictures and a selection of Kim's wonderful slides. We saw the variation in leaf form of Viola douglasii in different locations and some violets from her trips to Utah, not a place one would usually associate with violets. One of these was Viola frank-smithii, a violet recently discovered by Frank Smith on a cliff face in Utah. There were also photos of Peppered Palms, a cross between V. sororia 'Freckles' and V. palmata, and of some other improbable hybrids that she has seen. And each of us received from Gary a viola to take home as a memento of our day.

     It was a truly wonderful day, meeting other violet lovers we had known only from the Internet, seeing beautiful Dunbar Creek and finding and identifying together so many lovely violets. The privilege of doing that in the company of the violet authorities Harvey Ballard and Kim Blaxland was a priceless experience. Gary's generosity in planning and carrying through all this for us was extraordinary. Altogether it was an awesome day!

     We briefly discussed an American Violet Society trip for next spring. You will be amply rewarded for attending in 2002. If you have comments or suggestions about such a trip, please let us know.


  I know that people think it is amazing (or nuts) to travel clear across the country to look at violets for one day. But as I told Gary, it was worth more than the airfare!

  To meet people who share my passion for violets, to see the sweet little flower growing profusely in the wild, and to gain knowledge which enhances my life are part of the violet experience. I was especially thrilled to meet those with whom I have had only email contact.

  Can't wait for the next trek..

Annebelle Rice

Welcome Sign
Welcome AVS


Erythronium americanum (Trout Lilly)
Gathering For Dinner


Gathered For Dinner
Around The Table


Gathered For Dinner
After Dinner Seminar


  I want to thank everyone who helped make The American Violet Society's Spring 2001 Eastern US Field Event, "Searching For Violets" In The Dunbar Hills such a success.  I would have to say that being part of this event, was one of the greatest times I have had sharing our natural world with other people.  The support, attention, cooperation and enthusiasm that each of you showed me was wonderful.  I would love to do it again, perhaps a little later in the spring, so as to see a different selection of flowers.  I sincerely hope that this event establishes a standard, following our tradition of "Quality in Quantity".  Now, I am looking forward to our next field event.  I certainly hope I will be able to attend.  May God bless each of you as you all have blessed me.


Gary W. Sherwin

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