Spring Wildflowers: Wood Violet

Wood Violet, Viola Papilionacea

The task of choosing a state flower for Wisconsin was determined by a vote of school children in 1909. Contenders were, wild rose, water lily, trailing arbutus and

wood violet

. The wood violet won possibly due not to its grandeur but it’s bright blue violet color and friendly face.

Photo: courtney cauldwell

Photo: courtney cauldwell


The plant is about 2 to 5 inches tall and is found growing in clumps in shady spots, meadows, along roadsides and sometimes creeping into lawns.

The flowers may be blue, violet or white.  Each flower has five petals. The two lateral petals are bearded and hairy near the base and one petal points downward forming a symmetrical shape.

The leaves are heart-shaped with scalloped edges and the flower emerges on its own stalk without leaves.

After blooming the fruit capsule forms, dries and pops allowing the seeds to spread. The plant has a rhizome and fibrous root system.

illustration: patti cauldwell

illustration: patti cauldwell


Interesting Things About Wood Violet:

- The wood violet is from the Violaceae family which has 400 to 500 species around the world.

- It’s Latin name, papilionacea, means butterfly. The blooms often look like a butterfly with wings from a side view.

- The flower and leaves are edible. Recipes include the flowers in salads, soups, jellies and is popular candied for wedding cakes.

- Violets are a symbol for “constant love” and mentioned in various romantic literature. One such tale is the Iroquois story: “Legend of the Violet”  ....  A young brave falls in love with a beautiful maiden from a warring tribe. Disregarding the laws of their people they run away to be together. Their people are angered at the disgrace and the couple is sought after and killed. On the place where their bodies fell, a mound of blue violets grew and the little blue flower remains a symbol of their “constant love”

Credits: General info, State Flower, Legend