Viola rugulosa (Western Canada White Violet)
|Also known as:||Canada Violet, Rugulose Violet, Rydberg's Violet, Great Plains White Violet|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; dry to average moisture; deciduous woods, mixed forest, bluffs, ravines, creek banks, floodplains|
|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):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Single 5-petaled flower on a naked stalk arising from a leaf axil. Flowers are ¼ to ¾ inch (12 to 24 mm) long, up to about 1 inch across, slightly irregular with 5 white petals, distinctly bright yellow at the base. The 2 lateral petals have tufts of short, white hairs at the base (bearded). The lower petal is has dark purple veins radiating from the center, and forms a short spur at the back.
The backs of the petals are tinged pink to purple, sometimes petals are also pink-tinged on the front. Sepals are narrowly triangular to lance-linear, pointed at the tip, hairless or minutely hairy on the surface and along the edges. Flower stalks are hairless to sparsely hairy.
Leaves and stem:
There are both basal and stem leaves, color is green to gray-green. Leaves are mostly heart-shaped, 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) long and to 3 inches wide, and often abruptly tapered near the tip. Edges are scalloped or shallowly toothed, surfaces are hairy especially along veins on the underside. Basal and lower stem leaves are typically long-stalked and the blades may be wider than long.
Stem leaves are typically shorter-stalked and blades become more elongated as they ascend the stem, the uppermost leaves more egg-shaped. At the base of a leaf stalk is a pair of leafy appendages (stipules) that are toothless and sharply pointed at the tip. Stems and leaf stalks are variously hairy. Dense colonies can form from elongated, horizontal stems (rhizomes) that may be above or below ground but are commonly shallowly buried.
Both petalled (chasmogamous) and petal-less, self-pollinating (cleistogamous) flowers produce fruit, in an ovoid capsule up to ½ inch (7.5 to 12 mm) long and usually covered in short hairs. The capsule is initially green and hanging, turning light brown and becoming erect at maturity. It splits into 3 sections and contains numerous light brown seeds.
Western Canada White Violet, formerly Viola canadensis var. rugulosa, is now considered a separate species from V. canadensis (i.e. Eastern Canada White Violet), the main differences being V. canadensis does not have elongated rhizomes, and its foliage and stems are hairless to only sparsely hairy. V. rugulosa ranges from Wisconsin to the Pacific coast and V. canadensis from Wisconsin eastward, though these ranges are currently under review. Dr. Harvey Ballard, the authority on North American violets, says the taxon is still relatively poorly known and deserves further study, so this could all change sometime in the future.
Canada Violet is easily distinguished from all other the white violets in Minnesota, all of which have 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, there are usually only stem leaves (no basal leaves, rarely 1), and they tend to be all in the upper ¼ of the stem, where V. rugulosa stem leaves are more evenly distributed along the stem.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Western Canada White Violet plant
- a clump of Western Canada White Violet
- garden-grown Western Canada White Violet
- a dense colony of Western Canada White Violet
- Western Canada White Violet with Virginia Waterleaf and Dutchman's Breeches
- some flowers may be tinged pale pink
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka, Goodhue and Hennepin counties and in her garden. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in his gardens.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?