What’s in a color? As we jump into Illinois, the violets are everywhere! Woods, fields, riverbanks, front yards, vacant lots, and gardens all harbor one of nine blue, lavender, or purple violets. Which variety is the state flower? All of them apparently, as no one thought to name a specific viola as the state floral symbol although some sources list the Viola sororia or common Blue Violet as the one and only. And that’s OK as all are attractive, five petal, low growing, invasive, known-to-all wildflowers.
Even the Blue Violet comes in purple, lavender, and occasionally white and even blue. All parts of the violet are edible and the leaves are a rich cource of Vitamin C. What’s for dinner, my love? How about – viola bread with blue violet jelly, leaves of green and a violet tea? Yumm!
A problem with violets is that because they are everywhere, we tend to overlook how delicate and genuinely beautiful they really are. Viola typically have heart-shaped, scalloped leaves, though a number have palmate leaves or other shapes. The vast majority of the 500 Viola species are herbaceous, and a substantial number are acaulescent in habit – meaning they lack any noticeable stems and the foliage and flowers appear to rise from the ground; the remaining species have short stems with foliage and flowers produced in the axils of the leaves. The simple leaves of plants with either habit are arranged alternately; the acaulescent species produce basal rosettes. Plants always have leaves with stipules that are often leaf-like.
The flowers are formed from five petals; four are upswept or fan-shaped petals with two per side, and there is one broad, lobed lower petal pointing downward. The shape of the petals and placement defines many species, for example, some species have a “spur” on the end of each petal while most have a spur on the lower petal.
Whether in woods or lawns, violets bloom from early spring to summer and companion well with Trilliums, Hepatica, and Anemone.
Let’s look one last time at the Blue Violet and determine exactly what color it is. What do you think?
Now we tread softly into a neighboring state to the east – Indiana – my home state. It doesn’t have a state designated wildflower which is a shame since wildflowers abound. However, there is a state flower and everyone including ants love it! It comes in all colors, blooms in the Spring, and is not native to Indiana or even the US. Do you know what it is?