Delaware Wildflowers • Guides

Viola — Violet
Twenty species and varieties can be found in Delaware. All but two are native, and except where noted they are common in both the Piedmont and coastal plain. Violets can be hard to identify; there are a lot of pretty similar species, and they form hybrids.

Thirteen species are plants without leafy stems. The leaves and flowers come separately from the ground, or from runners on the ground.

Five species have yellow or white flowers, and lack leafy stems:

Viola rotundifolia, Yellow Roundleaf Violet
This is the only yellow violet in Delaware without leafy stems.
Piedmont only; rare.

Viola blanda, Sweet White Violet
Leaves heart-shaped, petals beardless, upper petals twisted.
Piedmont only; uncommon.

Viola macloskeyi var. pallens, Smooth White Violet
Leaves heart-shaped, side petals bearded.

Viola primulifolia, White Primrose-leaved Violet
Leaves broader at the base than the tip, but not heart-shaped.

Viola lanceolata var. lanceolata, White Lance-leaf Violet
Leaves long and narrow, tapering at both ends.

Eight species have flowers in a shade of blue or purple (rarely white), and lack leafy stems:

Leaves divided, blue/purple flowers, lacking leafy stems:

Viola pedata, Blue Bird's-foot Violet
Leaves divided into narrow segments, flowers with prominent orange stamens.

Viola brittoniana var. brittoniana, Blue Coast Violet
Leaves divided into narrow segments, flowers without prominent orange stamens.
Coastal plain only; uncommon.

Viola palmata, Blue Palmate-leaved Violet
Leaves divided into wider segments; may also have some undivided leaves.

Leaves not divided, blue/purple flowers, lacking leafy stems:

Viola cucullata, Blue Marsh Violet
Hairless, found in wet places, flowers usually darker in the center.

Viola sagittata, Blue Arrowleaf Violet
Leaves arrow-shaped, triangular, with a few hairs.

Viola fimbriatula, Blue Fringed Violet
Leaves arrow-shaped, hairy on both sides.
Status uncertain.

Viola hirsutula, Southern Blue Wood Violet
Flowers reddish-purple; leaves "silvery-hairy and somewhat mottled above, often with purple veins."
Piedmont only.

Viola sororia, Woolly Blue Violet  (Viola papilionacea, Common Blue Violet)
May be hairy or hairless (formerly considered separate species.) I would probably call any stemless blue/purple violet in Delaware Viola sororia if it wasn't clearly one of the four above. The pale form is the "confederate violet."

Seven species are plants with leaves and flowers on upright stems:

Four species have yellow or white flowers on leafy stems:

Viola pubescens var. pubescens, Downy Yellow Violet
The whole plant is covered with short hairs.
Common in the Piedmont, rare on the coastal plain.

Viola pubescens var. scabriuscula, Smooth Yellow Violet
May have a few hairs, but basically smooth.
Common in the Piedmont, rare on the coastal plain.

Viola striata, Striped White Violet
This is the only white violet in Delaware with leafy stems.
Piedmont only; uncommon.

Viola arvensis, Small Wild Pansy
Petals are white and yellow, sometimes with purple tips.

Three species have flowers at least partly blue or purple, on leafy stems (also see Viola arvensis above):

Viola labradorica, Blue American Dog Violet
Pale with darker veins, and a long spur. Sure looks like a dog's head to me.
Piedmont only.

Viola tricolor, Three-colored Violet  (Johhny Jump-up)
Upper petals purple, lower yellow and white.

Viola bicolor, Field Pansy
Petals pale blue, often marked with yellow. Large, lobed, stipules.

Sources: The Flora of Delaware, Herbaceous Plants of Maryland, Wildflowers of Delaware and the Eastern Shore.

Copyright David G. Smith

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