Viola pedata (Birdfoot Violet)
|Also known as:||Beardless Birdfoot Violet|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; dry sandy or rocky soil; prairies, open woods|
|Bloom season:||April - June|
|Plant height:||3 to 6 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: UPL MW: UPL NCNE: UPL|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Irregular 5-petaled blue to purple flower to 1+ inch (to 30 mm) long at the end of a naked stalk usually held above the leaves at peak bloom. The 2 lateral petals lack tufts of hairs at the base (beardless). The lower petal is white at the base with dark purple veins radiating from the center, and forms a short spur at the back. A tight group of orange stamens pokes out from the throat. Sepals are lance-linear, pointed at the tip, and hairless.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are all basal; color is green to gray-green. Mature leaves are up to about 1½ inches (to 4 cm) long and about as wide, egg to kidney-shaped in outline, the blades deeply palmately lobed into narrow segments with 3 main lobes, the lateral lobes each further divided into 3 to 5 lobes. Edges are toothless; surfaces are hairless, occasionally sparsely hairy. Leaf stalks are hairless.
Fruit is an ovoid capsule up to 3/8 inch (5 to 10 mm) long, initially green, erect when mature and drying brown. It splits into 3 sections and contains many copper-colored seeds 1.7 to 1.8 mm long.
Birdfoot Violet may be confused for Prairie Violet (Viola pedatifida), which is found in the same habitat, blooming about the same time, and also has palmately lobed leaves. The flowers are distinctly different, however; those of Prairie Violet are smaller and the lateral petals are bearded, plus its leaves typically are larger and have more divisions. Location within the state can also be a distinguishing factor; Minnesota is on the northwest edge of Birdfoot Violet's range, so it's limited to our southeast and east-central counties, where Prairie Violet may be found in much of the state, except the northeast and north-central counties. Most references note that sometimes Birdfoot Violet has dark purple upper petals and lighter lower petals, but we have not seen this in the wild in Minnesota.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County, McKnight Prairie in Dakota County, and in his garden.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?