Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Violaceae

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Ubiquitous in lawns, and there are some unaccountably dour types who try to eradicate it. Violets cause no harm; they never grow too high and are easily mowed, and they give us flowers like these, which were blooming on Easter Sunday in the middle of April in a lawn in Mount Lebanon. If you think nothing but identical blades of grass should make up a lawn, then you miss half the poetry of having a plot of land in the first place.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAGray, with assistance from Brainerd, describes the genus and the species:

VIOLA [Tourn.] L. VIOLET, HEART’S-EASE. [Revised by E. Brainerd.] Petals somewhat unequal, the lower one spurred at the base. Stamens closely surrounding the ovary, often slightly cohering with each other; the two lower bearing spurs which project into the spur of the corolla. Besides these conspicuous blossoms, which appear in spring, others are produced later, on shorter peduncles or on runners, often concealed under the leaves; these never open nor develop petals, but are fertilized in the bud and are far more fruitful than the ordinary blossoms. — The closely allied species of the same section, when growing together, often hybridize with each other, producing forms that are confusing to the student not familiar with the specific types. The hybrids commonly display characters more or less intermediate between those of the parents, and show marked vegetative vigor but greatly impaired fertility. (The ancient Latin name of the genus.)

Plants stemless, the leaves and scapes directly from a rootstock or from runners.

Style dilated upward in a vertical plane, capitate, with a conical beak on the lower side; stigma within the tip of the beak.

Rootstock fleshy and thickened, without runners; petals violet-blue to purple, the lateral bearded (Blue Violets).

Leaves heart-shaped, the margins merely eremite-serrate.

Plants more or less pubescent.

Leaves all undivided.

Spurred petal glabrous or bearing only scattered hairs; capsules 8—12 mm. long.

V. sororia. In size and habit like no. 7 (V. papillonacea), into which it passes; leaves villous-pubescent especially on the petioles and under surface when young; vernal flowers on peduncles about the length of the leaves, violet to lavender and occasionally white; outer sepals ovate-oblong, commonly obtuse, ciliolate below the middle and on the short rounded auricles; cleistogamous flowers ovoid, on short prostrate peduncles; capsules of these usually purple; seeds dark brown. (V. palmata, var. Pollard.) — Moist meadows, alluvial woods, shady hedges and dooryards, w. Que. to Minn., and southw.


Striped Cream Violet (Viola striata)

Viola-striata-2013-05-01-Fox-Chapel-02

Misidentifying violets is easy; we have done it here more than once. There are several similar white violets in our area, but this species should be easy to identify if we look for a combination of three things: bearded side petals (see the enlargement above), leafy flower stems  (in some other species the flowers rise directly from the base with no leaves on the flower stems), and roundish toothed leaves (see the picture below; the leaves of Canada Violet, for example, are more elongated).

Viola-striata-2013-05-01-Fox-Chapel-01

Gray (with help from his successors) describes the genus and the species:

VtOLA [Tourn.] L. VIOLET. HEART’S-EASE. Revised By E. Brainerd. Petals somewhat unequal, the lower one spurred at the base. Stamens closely surrounding the ovary, often slightly cohering with each other; the two lower bearing spurs which project into the spur of the corolla. Besides these conspicuous blossoms, which appear in spring, others are produced later, on shorter peduncles or on runners, often concealed under the leaves; these never open nor develop petals, but are fertilized in the bud and are far more fruitful than the ordinary blossoms. —The closely allied species of the same section, when growing together, often hybridize with each other, producing forms that are confusing to the student not familiar with the specific types. The hybrids commonly display characters more or less intermediate between those of the parents, and show marked vegetative vigor but greatly impaired fertility. (The ancient Latin name of the genus.)

Plants with leafy stems.

Style not capitate, slender; length of spur at least twice its width; stipules fringed-toothed, somewhat herbaceous.

Tip of the style bent downward, slightly pubescent near the summit; lateral petals bearded; spur less than 8 mm long.

Petals white or cream-colored.

V. striata Ait. Usually 16-30 cm. high when in flower, often in late summer 6 dm. high, glabrous or nearly so; leaves heart-shaped, finely crenate-serrate, often acute; stipules large, oblong-lanceolate; spur rather thick, shorter than the petals; sepals ciliate, narrow, attenuate; capsules ovoid, glabrous, 4-6 mm. long; seeds light brown. — Low or shady ground, Ct. to Minn., and southw.


Smooth Yellow Violet (Viola pennsylvanica)

Viola-pennsylvanica-02-1024

We find these charming yellow violets on moist wooded hillsides; these grew near the Trillium Trail in Fox Chapel.

Gray lists this as Viola scabriuscula; others as V. pubescens var. scabriuscula or V. eriocarpa. From Gray’s Manual of Botany: V. scabriuscula Schwein. (SMOOTH YELLOW V.) Similar to the preceding [V. pubescens], with which it intergrades ; the more pronounced forms have commonly 2-4 stems and 1-3 radical leaves from one rootstock, the stems shorter and more leafy, the leaves smaller and sparingly pubescent to glabrate, the time of flowering earlier ; flowers, capsules, and seeds as in the preceding [petals purple-veined, the lateral bearded ; sepals narrowly lanceolate, acute ; apetalous flowers abundant in summer on short peduncles ; capsules ovoid, glabrous or woolly ; seeds light brown, large, nearly 3 mm. long].  Moist thickets, often in heavy soil, e. Que. to L. Winnipeg, and southw.


Northern White Violet (Viola pallens)

Viola-pallens-02

Our most common violets are the violet-colored ones, but these white ones are often found in open woodlands. These grew in a woodland that was also liberally dotted with common blue violets and a scattering of yellow violets.


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