The American Violet Society
Return to AVS Homepage
Return to Violets In America Index
Viola in the West Virginia Mountains
Written by:  Barry Glick © 1995, 2000 All Rights Reserved

             Living at 3,000 feet in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia has some definite advantages.   For instance, there are almost 30 Viola species native to West Virginia and most of them can be found in the woods and meadows near my farm.   All of the species are abundant in the wild and there is no such thing as a rare viola.   This abundance does not diminish the joy of stumbling onto a new population.   They all make excellent garden plants and will surprise you as to how well they perform when you remove them from the competition of weeds, surrounding species, and tree roots.
             The earliest Viola to bloom in the spring is Viola rotundifolia.   V. rotundifolia springs forth from a rather rough rootstock that becomes horizontal as the plant ages.   The spring leaves are orbicular or ovate and are mildly pubescent with short white hairs.   The flower petals are bright primrose yellow with three lower brown striations, sometimes chocolate tinted.   The summer leaves are almost orbicular, but cordate at the base.   It is the only stem-less yellow violet found in West Virginia.   When I say stem-less, I am referring to the plant, not the flowers.
Viola rotundifolia IMAGE
Viola rotundifolia
Photo Copyright: Gary W. Sherwin © 2000 All Rights Reserved.
Viola hastata IMAGE
Viola hastata
Photo Copyright: Gary W. Sherwin © 2000 All Rights Reserved.
           Viola hastata is a fascinating plant.   Even if it never flowered, it would be well worth growing for its silvery marbled foliage.   The specific epithet, hastata, refers to the almost arrow shape of the leaves.   The variation among populations is astounding.   I have spent much time in the woods leapfrogging around on the ground looking at leaves as different as snowflakes.   V. hastata has yellow flowers.
             Viola Canadensis is the tallest of our native Viola species.   As with the aforementioned species, this Viola can be found in moist rich woods throughout the state.   Attaining a height of 12”- 6”, this species has large white flowers with a spur petal that is yellow at the base and striped with fine, dark lines.   The three lower petals are purple veined.
Viola canadensisIMAGE
Viola Canadensis
Photo Copyright: Gary W. Sherwin © 2000 All Rights Reserved.
Viola pedata IMAGE
Viola pedata
Photo Copyright: Purchased byAVS
© 2000
All Rights Reserved.
            Viola pedata is known locally as the “Bird’s Foot Violet.”   This common name comes from the fact that the foliage resembles the shape of a bird’s foot.   In contrast to the above species, V. pedata> is found mainly in a shale barren setting in well drained “shaly”, rock soil.   Its variably colored flowers are among the showiest of the genus.   The flowers are produced in profusion in early spring and held well above the foliage.   Colors range from pale blue to dark lilac.   A friend in Decatur, Georgia, Don Jacobs at Eco Gardens, has selected a lovely form and named it “Eco Artists’ Palette.”
             Some of the other species of Viola that can be found in the “Mountain State” are: Viola cucullata, papilionacea, affinis, sagittata, emarginata, triloba, septentrionalis, fimbriatula, sororia, hirsutula, palmate, lanceolata, primulifolia, blanda, pallens, tripartita, pubescens, Pennsylvania, striata, conspersa, appalachiensis, rostrata,and rafinesquii   I hope that this brief foray into one small area of our native flora whets your appetite for native plants and that you will come visit West Virginia a true botanical paradise.
Viola rostrata IMAGE
Viola rostrata
Photo Copyright: Gary W. Sherwin © 2000 All Rights Reserved.
Return to Violets In America Index
Return to AVS Homepage