Viola canadensis (Canadian White Violet)

Plant Info
Also known as: Canada Violet, Rugulose Violet
Family:Violaceae (Violet)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; woods
Bloom season:April - July
Plant height:8 to 16 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
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 flower] Single flowers on naked stalks arising from the leaf axils. Flowers are about 1 inch across, slightly irregular with 5 white petals, distinctly yellow at the base, and dark purple lines on the lower petals. The side petals are “bearded” with tufts of short hairs. The backs of the petals are tinged purple.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] There are both basal and stem leaves, mostly heart-shaped, 2 to 4 inches long and to 3 inches wide, with scalloped or shallowly toothed edges and sharply pointed tips. The stem leaves are typically more elongated than basal leaves. There are fine hairs on leaf edges and along major veins on the underside. Stems are hairless or have a few scattered hairs and often tinged purple.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is a oval capsule up to ½ inch long and covered in short fine hairs. The capsule is initially green and hanging, turning brown and becoming erect when ripe. It splits into 3 sections and contains numerous brown seeds.


Canadian White Violet often grows in clumps. I've read it spreads easily in a garden setting. It is easily distinguished from other Minnesota white violets, all of which have much smaller flowers lacking the bright yellow spot, and have only basal leaves, no stem leaves. When not blooming the leaves may be mistaken for Viola pubescens (Downy Yellow Violet), but the latter leaves are typically smaller, mostly wider than long, and more strongly toothed. There are 4 recognized varieties of V. canadensis in North America, with var. rugulosa found in Minnesota as well as most of Canada and the northern U.S. from Wisconsin and Illinois to the Pacific coast.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, Coon Rapids, MN. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


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

Posted by: Kay - Hennipin County
on: 2012-05-29 16:36:32

I have a thousand of these in my yard. Technically they're weeds, but they're so pretty I let them grow where they want to.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-05-30 20:04:21

They can indeed spread and form colonies, but they are native. I have some in my own yard.

Posted by: Melanie - Central
on: 2014-06-03 15:46:45

Are Canadian white violets edible?

Posted by: Starr - Minneapolis
on: 2015-05-11 15:01:49

This is the violet is problematic. I have the Downy Yellow Violets growing in clumps beside it. The problem is that it gets too big and beats out the smaller violets. I grow them for the beauty but have to limit these bigger violets to one area to allow the small ones-mostly blue or purple- room to grow.

Posted by: Andrea - SChaar's Bluff, Spring Lake Park Reserve, Dakota County
on: 2016-04-21 14:01:07

Only a few of these blooming along the walking path south of the visitor Center bridge.

Posted by: Kayleen - Minneapolis
on: 2017-05-22 13:31:49

I have a bunch of lush Canada violets growing in an area I'd like to turn into a butterfly garden with hyssop, milkweed, coneflower, blazing star, golden rod, etc. I don't want to lose the lushness of the violets but I also don't want to choke out the new native plants I'm putting in. Do I need to fully remove the Canada violets if I'm putting in the native plants. Or do they have some native plant symbiosis arrangement that can help them both thrive?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-05-22 14:18:13

I'm not aware of any symbiosis with Canada violet. It does easily spread by rhizomes on its own so it isn't likely adding other species to the mix will cause it to diminish. You may actually find it crowds out the other species that don't compete as well.

Posted by: Mike Palmquist
on: 2019-05-23 09:23:32

There are quite a few scattered bunches of Canadian violets blossoming now in the wooded hills between Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun

Posted by: Andrea F - Blaine, Anoka Co.
on: 2019-05-31 13:25:47

I have some in my back yard under some shrub trees (growing wild). The rest of the lot (in the area) was built on sandy soil. Thanks for the website so I could identify this plant.

Posted by: Nicole - Minneapolis
on: 2021-06-17 23:39:06

How long have these been considered native. Someone recently told me that these are invasive compared to other violets. Thanks!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-06-18 07:49:46

Nicole, Canadian white violet is native but, like many other native species, can be an aggressive spreader in cultivation. I have it in my own gardens and use it as a natural ground cover. You just need to thin it out periodically. Whoever said native plant gardens are low maintenance never had one!

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