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Archive for the ‘Family: Violet’ Category

There are now flowers blooming everywhere here in New England, the sun is out and the temperature has risen to a bear-able level.  I sat outside on a picnic blanket the other day, it was a little too cold after some time, but it was nice to get out of the apartment!  I saw these violets as I was looking for a place to sit – I wouldn’t have seen them if I hadn’t slowed down a bit.

Violets, Boston, MA

Now back at my place, I’ve been trying to identify which violet I saw.  There are about 900 species, and hybridization is common, so it might be difficult to pinpoint which one!  There are some clear defining features, though, that might help me narrow it down.

1. Purple flowers.  Unlike the Wild Pansies I found in Stockholm, this violet is just one color

2. These violets were “stemless” – meaning the leaves and flowers were on separate stalks

3. The flower stalks were much taller than the leaf stalks

4. The leaves were heart-shaped with a nearly closed notch

5. The bottom petal was shorter than the rest

6. The lateral petals were bearded (had little hairs on them)

From my Peterson’s guide, the only one that fits well is the Marsh Blue Violet (Viola cucullata).  I did find this flower near the Fens, where it is quite damp and this flower is found in wet meadows, springs, bogs in most of the area from April to June. The lower petal is shorter than the rest and flower stalks are longer. The description says the Marsh Blue Violet has lateral petals that are darker toward the throat, with beards “clavate” (like small clubs).  I’m not sure if this fits… maybe it is a hybrid.

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I found this bunch of Wild Pansies in a rock crevice on my walk to work a couple of weeks ago.  I’ve seen pansies like these in window boxes as cultivated flowers, but never growing wild!  Although their faces are small, the three colors are quite unique and caught my attention immediately.

Wild Pansy (Styvmorsviol), Stockholm, Sweden

The name for wild pansy in Swedish is ‘styvmorsviol’ which literally means ‘stepmother’s violet’.  According to my favorite Swedish flora identification site, Den virtuella floran, the lower petal symbolizes the stepmother standing on 2 sepals.  The 2 nearest petals are her daughters and the 2 above (furthest from her) are her stepdaughters.  The Latin name is Viola tricolor, which comes from the three colors of this flower (purple, white and yellow).  The English word ‘pansy’ comes from the French word ‘pensée’, meaning ‘thought’.  Originally from Europe, the Brits also call this flower Heartsease because of its use as an herbal treatment for a variety of ailments, especially those involving the skin (see the wikipedia article).  For those of you who like literary references, check out wikipedia’s article for how Shakespeare has referred to the pansy in several of his plays.

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