Friday, May 7, 2010

Blue Violet - Viola sororia

Blue violet (Viola soraria) may actually be several closely related species.  It has given plant taxonomists fits over the years and some have divided this species into several.  I have chosen to use what seems to be the most widely accepted current thought - that all of our oval-leaved blue-flowered violets are the same species.
Blue violet is found throughout eastern North America, including all of the southern tier of Canada's provences.  In Florida, it is found in nearly every county.
This is a common violet of woodland understories.  Its heart-shaped leaves are deciduous in colder parts of Florida and mostly evergreen in parts that rarely see freezing temperatures.  The basal rosette is about an inch above the leaf litter and nearly 6 inches across.  The deep purple flowers are produced on long stalks and bloom in early spring.  The flowers generally are held several inches above the leaf litter.
Blue violet is often available from Florida commercial nurseries and is easy to grow.  Use it in the understory of forested landscapes.  Though it will survive beneath the shade of evergreen canopy trees, such as live oaks, it will perform better beneath deciduous trees that let more light in from late winter to early spring.  This also is a relatively drought-tolerant violet, but prefers soils that are moist most of the time.
I use this species throughout the shadier parts of my Pinellas County landscape and look forward to letting it signal in spring for me each year.

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