Nature Table: Violets

Violets are well-known spring wild-flowers but in fact there are five native species and some of them are quite hard to tell apart and others are very restricted in where they grow. 

The commonest species is the dog violet and it will be several weeks before they start blooming. They will be preceded by the early dog violet while the sweet violet, which is scented, is even earlier and often comes into bloom in February.

The marsh violet is restricted to acid bogland and the rare fen violet to lime-rich fens and turloughs. The dog violet (nobody seems quite sure why the dog violet and the dog rose got their canine association, it may be, rather counter-intuitively, because they have no scent and are therefore regarded as inferior) is originally a woodland species that often grows in hedge bottoms and along road verges.

It’s a sprawling plant and the green, heart-shaped leaves, on long stems, often have purple stripes along the veins. Violets are related to wild and cultivated pansies.


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