Viola pedatifida (Prairie Violet)
|Also known as:||Bearded Birdfoot Violet|
|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):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Irregular 5-petaled blue-violet to purple flower ¾ to 1 inch (to 25 mm) long at the end of a stalk held above or among the leaves at peak bloom. The 2 lateral petals are white at the base with tufts of white hairs (bearded). The lower petal is white at the base with dark purple veins radiating from the center, forms a short spur at the back, and is also bearded but the hairs are hidden within the throat.
Leaves are all basal; color is green. Mature leaves are 1 to 2+ inches (to 55 mm) long, often wider than long (to 87 mm), triangular to kidney to broadly egg-shaped in outline, the blades deeply palmately lobed into 13 to 25 narrow segments, the lobes often further divided.
The earliest leaves or smaller leaves later in the season may be more shallowly lobed, cleft only about halfway through the blade. Edges are minutely fringed and toothless; surfaces are hairless or minutely hairy along veins. Leaf stalks are hairless to sparsely hairy.
Both petalled (chasmogamous) and petal-less, self-pollinating (cleistogamous) flowers produce fruit, in an ovoid capsule up to about ½ inch (9 to 12 mm) long, initially green, erect when mature and drying tan. Seeds are medium brown, 1.7 to 2.2 mm long.
Prairie Violet, formerly Viola palmata var. pedatifida, may be confused with Birdfoot Violet (Viola pedata), which also has palmately lobed leaves. The easiest way to tell them apart is whether or not the flowers are bearded. Birdfoot Violet is beardless, has larger flowers, leaves are usually smaller with fewer divisions, and it does not produce cleistagmous flowers or fruit. Location can also help distinguish them with Prairie Violet fairly common in much of the state, except for the northeast and north-central counties, while Birdfoot Violet is restricted to the southeast and east-central counties.
Prairie Violet has been known to hybridize with some other Minnesota violets, notably Common Blue Violet (V. sororia) and Northern Bog Violet (V. nephrophylla), the hybrids showing intermediate traits in foliage and flowers and only producing fruit in cleistogamous flowers, though little viable seed is formed.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Prairie Violet plant
- Prairie Violet plant
- garden grown Prairie Violet
- atypical white-flowered Prairie Violet
- fruit forming in late May
Photos by K. Chayka taken Helen Allison SNA, Lost Valley Prairie SNA, Wild River State Park, and in Ramsey County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken at Whitewater Wildlife Management Area, in Anoka County and in his garden.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?