Thursday, May 6, 2010
Walter's violet - Viola walteri
Coming from Wisconsin, violets to me are a sure sign of spring. I love hiking through Florida's deciduous woodlands and finding them here as well. For this reason, I plant them all over my yard, in the understory and in every corner where they might thrive.
Walter's violet (Viola walteri) is one of our most unique species. Its diminutive flowers and foliage barely stick up above the leaf litter and it forms sinuous chains of basal leaves which snake their way along the forest floor. The leaves rarely stand taller than an inch and they are often distinctly mottled - as in the photo above. The basal leaves tend to remain through the winter and new growth commences in the early spring. Small light lavender flowers appear at this time also. They stand about 2 inches above the ground.
Walter's violet is found in scattered locations in north and north central Florida. It is often associated with calcareous soils, but does not seem to require them. It is a wildflower of the Southeast and occurs throughout the region from east Texas in the western part of its range to Virginia in the north.
I have had very poor success trying to keep this violet alive in my Pinellas County landscape. Although I have planted it in a deciduous woodland setting - in locations where other species normally associated with it have thrived, I have never been able to keep it for more than 6-7 months. For this reason, it seems best to attempt it closer to its natural range. Plant it in a woodland setting in moist soils. If those soils are alkaline, you may succeed even better.