The Violet Gazette

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Published by THE AMERICAN VIOLET SOCIETY
© 2001 All Rights Reserved.

Volume 2, Number 2
Spring  2001
On line Version

PAGE 6

VIOLET JOURNEYS:
"Searching for Violet Treasures" in the Dunbar Hills


     
Elizabeth Scott,
       AVS Vice President and Resident Taxonomist.

Photos by:
       Gary W. Sherwin © 2001.  All rights reserved.


             The following is a list of the viola species we saw last April 21st on our expedition to the Dunbar Hills in Southwest Pennsylvania. It is strictly the work of an amateur (myself) and thought I would divide them according to flower color.


Blue 

1.

 Viola sororia (common blue violet) 
 
   
   
Viola sororia
Viola sororia

 

   
   
           When I first learned violet names, our common blue (stemless) violet was V. papilionacea. It was smooth, and there was a hairy Midwestern species called V. sororia that I had never seen. Then, some years ago it was decided that hairy or smooth does not make any difference, does not make a species, so the two were put together and called V. sororia. I am sorry they used that name because V. papilionacea is much prettier.

          A number of other violets that used to be considered separate species; V. septentrionalis for instance, have also been lumped with V. sororia. Probably 95% of what you see will be V. sororia, and you can just assume any little blue violet is V. sororia unless there is something really different about it. It will still be called V. papilionacea in older books. White forms of V. sororia are very commonly seen, as is the beautiful variety Priceana or 'Confederate' violet. 'Freckles' is also a color variant of V. sororia


2.

 Viola hirsutula (southern wood violet) 
   
   
Viola hirsutula
Viola hirsutula

 

   
   
           This is one we saw on the mountain, not down by the creek, and it is one of our most beautiful violets, with dark purple (not blue) flowers and leaves that are silver on top (because of being covered with white hairs) and purplish on the bottom. This is a woodland species and not really common but not rare either. 

3.

 Viola sagittata (arrow-leaved violet) 
   
   
Viola sagitata -f- sagitata
Viola sagitata -f- sagitata

 

   
   
           This is the violet that caused so much discussion in the afternoon in the field and after dinner. There used to be three somewhat similar species, with blue flowers and leaves that are longer than wide, sagittate or arrowhead-shaped leaves. V. sagittata was smooth and had lobes at the base of the leaf. V. fimbriatula was hairy, had lobes at the base of the leaf and was found in rocky, exposed places. V. emarginata had triangular leaves. Now all of them have been lumped together as V. sagittata, and Harvey Ballard has two varieties, (1) variety sagittata that is mostly smooth with long leaf stems that stand up, and (2) variety ovata (the former V. fimbriatula) that is hairy and has leaves with short stems that are flat to the ground. 

4.

 Viola rostrata (long-spurred violet) 
   
   
Viola rostrata
Viola rostrata

 

   
   
           This is the only stemmed blue violet we saw and it is easy to recognize because of its long spur. It is usually a lighter blue than most violets. The 'Dog violet' is similar but the spur is not as long. 

White 

5.

 Viola blanda (sweet violet)          The only white one we saw. 
   
   
Viola blanda
Viola blanda

 

   
   
           It is a very small stemless violet and is usually found in damp places. It often has red stems on both leaves and flowers and often the two top petals are twisted back. It is called sweet violet because it is sometimes scented, but I don't often find it scented. Last week Gary Sherwin sent us an E-mail saying that violets had indeed bloomed at Dunbar Creek and he included some pictures. The picture of V. blanda blooming in the moss was a perfect illustration of the species. 

Yellow 

6.

 Viola pubescens (stemmed yellow, downy yellow violet) 
   
   
Viola pubescens
Viola pubescens

 

   
   
           There used to be two stemmed yellow violets. One was downy yellow, V. pubescens, and one was smooth yellow, V. pennsylvanica. As with V. papilionacea and V. sororia above, it was decided that these were really only one species that could vary from smooth to downy. There were some other characteristics said to belong to one or the other species, but I had almost never found a plant that totally conformed to the description of either V. pubescens or V. pensylvanica so I was happy to have them together as one. The problem here is not recognizing this species but what to call it. First the name of V. pennsylvanica was changed to V. eriocarpa, and the two together were V. eriocarpa with a downy variety called var. pubescens. Now it is V. pubescens with the downy variety pubescens and the smooth variety scabriuscula

7.

 Viola rotundifolia (round-leaved violet) 
   
   
Viola rotundifolia
Viola rotundifolia

 

   
   
           This is an easy one. It's the earliest to bloom, two or three weeks before the others. It is a stemless yellow and has very round leaves held close to the ground. When the plant blooms, the leaves are fairly small but they get much bigger in summer. It is the only stemless yellow violet in the east. 

8.

 Viola hastata (halberd-leaved violet) 
   
   
Viola hastata
Viola hastata

 

   
   
           This is another easy yellow. It is stemmed but can't be confused with V. pubescens or anything else because it has beautiful triangular, pointed leaves that are silver-patterned. I wish this violet had a prettier common name, and I wish it were more often cultivated. I don't have a garden so I am not abreast of what is available, but I don't remember ever having seen this for sale and I wonder why because it is so beautiful. 

             The Plants of Pennsylvania by Ann Fowler Rhoads and Timothy Block, published in 2000 by the University of Pennsylvania, is the book to use for violet identification in the eastern U.S., and the only book that should be used. Harvey Ballard, Jr. was responsible for the section on violets, and I think of it as Harvey's book although he did only ten pages out of 1061.

© 2001 Elizabeth Scott, Vice President
The American Violet Society
All Rights Reserved


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