Viola novae-angliae (New England Violet)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Violaceae (Violet)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; gravelly, rocky soil, rock crevices along lakes, streams, and adjoining woodlands
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:2 to 4 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
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 flower at the end of a naked stem 3 to 4 inches long that holds the blossoms slightly above the leaves. The violet-purple flowers are over ½ inch across, often quite white at the base with long dense hairs on the three lower petals (bearded) and sometimes even scattered hairs on the surface of the upper two. The upper 2 petals are broad and often curve back, wrapping around the spur.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are all basal, generally narrowly triangular with a softly pointed to blunt tip, a heart-shaped base, typically with some amount of shallow rounded teeth around the edges, especially around the basal lobes. Younger leaves are over twice and long as wide, 1¾ inches long and ¾ inch wide. Later summer leaves are as wide as long, up to 2 inches long and wide. Upper leaf surfaces are mostly smooth, sometimes with a few scattered, short stiff hairs, especially along the veins. Lower surfaces have stiff white hairs throughout and along the leaf stalk, especially near the base. Flowering stems are mostly hairless.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] The fruit is an egg-shaped to nearly round capsule about 1/3 inch long that is initially light green and ripens to green mottled with purple. The capsule hangs down and becomes erect when the seed is ripe, the capsule splitting open into 3 sections and ejecting the seed with great force.


Of Minnesota's 10 blue/purple native violets, New England Violet is a more northern species with the greatest density of populations north of Duluth in St. Louis and Lake counties. Some references consider it a transitional species between Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) and Arrow-leaved Violet (Viola sagittata) which perhaps can be seen in the strongly arrow-shaped leaves. Interestingly, while V. sororia's range completely overlaps that of New England violet, it is by far a more southern species and V. sagittata is almost completely missing from the northern third of the state. While a number of plants can be found along the rocky trails at Banning State Park, New England Violet is much more frequent along the rocky crags of the St. Louis River in Jay Cooke State Park and state parks along the north shore of Lake Superior. Also interestingly, New England Violet is quite a rare species in New England. It is much more widespread in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Jay Cooke State Park, Carlton County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Carlton and Pine counties and a private garden in Ramsey County.


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

Posted by: Andy - Bloomington
on: 2013-09-24 00:02:49

Discovered a mystery violet all over our yard at our new house, now I swear (due to unique leaf shape) it's New England Violet. The only difference I can see is our specimens have completely smooth petals (no beard). Makes great ground cover and spreads prolifically, even into sidewalk cracks!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2013-09-26 18:58:28

Andy, if your yard is in the Twin Cities it's not likely you have New England violet spreading around, as its natural range is pretty limited to NE MN. The only blue beardless violets in MN we know about are birdfoot violet (Viola pedata) and Selkirk's violet (Viola selkirkii), which we don't have published yet. Neither of those species is typically found in yards. That distinction is usually left to common blue violet (Viola sororia).

Maybe if you post a picture on our Facebook page we can confirm what you have.

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