Viola palmata var. pedatifida (Prairie Violet)

Plant Info
Also known as: Bearded Birdfoot Violet
Family:Violaceae (Violet)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry prairies, open woods
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:3 to 6 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 flowers] A single, slightly irregular 5-petaled flower about ¾-inch across on a hairless, leafless stem. Petals are purple to blue-violet; the 3 lower petals are white near the base, the 2 side petals have a tuft of white hairs (“beard”) and the middle has darker purple lines. One to several flower stems may arise from one plant.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal, 1 to 3 inches long and wide on stems to 6 inches long, deeply lobed palmate-fashion into narrow segments, the lobes often further divided. They may be hairy or hairless.

[photo of early leaves] The leaves often do not fully develop until after the flowering period is done and may be more shallowly lobed or just a tuft close to the ground when the flowers bloom.


Prairie Violet is easily confused for Birdfoot Violet (Viola pedata). The easiest way to tell them apart is whether or not the flowers are bearded. Birdfoot Violet is beardless and has larger flowers, up to 1½ inches across. Prairie Violet often goes by synonym Viola pedatifida, but the accepted name in Minnesota is Viola palmata var. pedatifida.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, New Brighton, MN and Wild River State Park, May 2008 and 2009. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken in Anoka County and a residential garden in Lino Lakes.


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

Posted by: Dustin - Ramsey Mill Pond WMA
on: 2010-05-18 08:57:02

It's a beautiful site to see along the trail access to the Cedar River!

Posted by: Darren Abbey - Saint Paul, near Battle Creek Regional Park.
on: 2018-12-15 14:57:14

I found two specimens in overgrown gardens at our house soon after we moved in. It took some time to identify them. I have been propagating them. Seed collected from cleistogamous flowers grew readily after spending a winter outside in the surface of soil. Their juvenile leaves look the same as those of Viola sororia, but they soon start producing the cut-leaves characteristic for the plant. I've allowed them to spread in our vegetable gardens. Their low height makes them inoffensive as a weed and their dense leaf cover seems to crowd out the weeds I don't like.

Posted by: Kimberly E. - Storden, Cottonwood County
on: 2019-05-29 10:05:26

I found approximately two dozen plants on private property three miles north of Storden in Cottonwood County.

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