Viola pedata (Birdfoot Violet)

Plant Info
Also known as: Beardless Birdfoot Violet
Family:Violaceae (Violet)
Life cycle:perennial
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: irregular

[photo of flowers] A single, slightly irregular 5-petaled flower 1 to 1½ inches across at the end of a hairless, leafless stem that rises above the leaves. Petals are lavender to purple, the lower petal fading to white at the base with a few dark purple lines. A tight group of orange stamens projects from the center. The side petals are hairless (“beardless”).

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal, hairless, ¾ to 1½ inches long and wide on stalks to 2 inches long, the blades deeply lobed palmate-fashion into narrow segments, typically with 3 main lobes that are further divided. The outer basal leaves are typically smaller than the inner basal leaves. Stems are green or tinged purple.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is a capsule that splits into 3 sections and contains numerous copper colored seeds.


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 easiest way to tell them apart is whether or not the flowers are bearded. Prairie Violet is bearded, and has smaller flowers. Most references note that sometimes Birdfoot Violet has dark purple upper petals and lighter lower petals, but I have not seen this in the wild in Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken in Anoka County, McKnight Prairie in Dakota County, and a residential garden in Lino Lakes.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Neville - Grey Cloud Dunes SNA
on: 2011-05-17 09:41:50

Masses of violet on dune crests and southwest facing slopes overlooking the Mississippi River

Posted by: becky - pope county- lake street near lake villard, villard, mn
on: 2011-06-02 23:15:32

They grow along lake street in villard at the side of the road near the farm my grandfather used to rent. I used to see them in the spring, and they were blooming last saturday (5/28/11) when i was back up there. The leaf style is very narrow/delicate- much more like the "wild" picture you show than the "garden grown" picture's leaves.

Posted by: Michelle - Weaver
on: 2015-04-16 21:20:38

At Weaver Dunes, Weaver MN 2014

Posted by: Ken - Dakota County, Hastings Sand Coulee
on: 2016-05-10 12:54:01

Own 14 acres, over half is native prairie which includes the Sand Coulee. These flowers thrive here and are in bloom now.

Posted by: Gary - Pine County
on: 2019-01-24 08:38:22

I've seen this along the sides of I-35 a little north of Hinckley where it passes through the General C. C Andrews state forest.

Posted by: Daniela Bell - Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, Cottage Grove
on: 2021-05-06 21:30:08

Really lovely population on the prairie dunes at the SNA. Lots of flower color variation from deep purple to white.

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