Common Blue Violet
Common Blue Violet

Common Blue Violet
Viola papilionacea
When I was a child I grew up in an old farm house on the edge of a large wooded hillside. My favorite pastime was of course to walk in the woods. There were berries to pick in the summertime and animals to watch in the fall and winter. I loved to build "cabins" out of the fallen logs and play pioneer. But I think my very favorite woodland memory is the springtime violets or "Johnny Jump Ups" as we called them. They were the first flowers that bloomed in those woods in the spring and they grew profusely on the hillside, covering the ground with a beautiful purple blanket. I would spend hours in those woods gathering the flowers to bring home to my mother and I loved the bouquets she would make from them.

Common Blue Violets are a member of the Violet Family (Viola) and is native to North America. It is found in Eastern United States and Canada from approximately Wyoming east to the Atlantic Coast. It prefers moist, open woodlands, black soil prairies, savannahs and wooded slopes. It also grows in lawns and parks and can be cultivated in flower gardens. It blooms in April and May.

The blue-purple flowers, which may also be white with blue veins, are irregular in shape and about ¾" in size. It has 5 petals, the lower one longer and spurred, the two side petals are bearded. The flower, which grows on a separate, leafless stock, is actually a showpiece since insects do not normally visit the flower. There is a secondary flower called a cleistogamous flower which grows very close to the ground in autumn. This flower is self pollinating and will not open until the tiny, round, black seeds are ready to drop. These seeds are for establishing new colonies of violets since the main means of propagation is by the underground rhizomes. The leaves of the Common Blue Violet are basal and grow to be between 3" and 8" tall. The leaves are heart shaped, toothed and smooth.

Common Blue Violets are the official flower of many of the states including Illinois, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and New Jersey. The Blue Violet has been used over the centuries as symbols of love and faithfulness.

The leaves of the plant are high in vitamins A and C and can be eaten in salads. The leaf has a mild, sweet, slightly peppery taste. They can also be added to soup and in addition to adding flavor they will also thicken the broth. They can be sautéed and served as a vegetable.

The flowers of the violet are candied in sugar syrup and the make a colorful decoration for cakes and other confections. They also make a delightful jelly:

Wild Blue Violet Jelly

5 - 6 cups common blue violet blossoms
2 - 3 cups boiling water
Juice of 1 lemon
1 package (1 ¾ ounces) fruit pectin
4 cups sugar

Cover the blossoms with boiling water in a jar and leave overnight. The next day, strain and discard the flowers. Measure out 3 cups of the violet infusion and add the lemon juice and pectin to it. Bring to a boil and add the sugar. Boil hard for about 15 minutes. Skim off the foam if necessary and pour into sterilized jars and seal.

The Native Americans boiled violet bulbs and dried them to use as food during the long cold winters.

Violets were used by the European settlers for medicinal purposes. The seeds and the leaves made a poultice for treating inflammation and swelling, it is soothing for all kinds of skin irritations and small wounds. The flowers were made into a syrup with honey and used as a child's laxative. Violets are known to contain salicylic acid (aspirin is Acetosalicylic Acid), and a tea made from the flowers has been used as a treatment for headaches, lung congestion, infections, bladder and urinary problems, research has shown that it is a diuretic. A tea made from the roots and flowers was used for cough, insomnia and nervousness. In very strong doses violet preparations may be used to induce vomiting.

Aphrodite Fritillary

While the lovely violet flower does not attract insects and therefore does not attract butterflies, the plant plays host to the caterpillars many of the Fritillary butterflies. Among them are the Variegated Fritillary, the Aphrodite Fritillary, the Meadow Fritillary, the Silver-Border Fritillary, and the Diana.
Copyright © 2006
KayDee Ward....All Rights Reserved
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