Canada Violet

Viola canadensis

Canada Violet goes by many names, but you may be most comfortable calling it White Violet, or Tall White Violet, because those are its most conspicuous field marks.  I usually think of violets as low-growing wildflowers, but this one can reach more than a foot in height.  The beautiful heart-shaped leaves can grow quite large (3-4 inches across), and they are held up on very long petioles.  The leaves are arranged alternately and have slightly serrate margins.

Turn it over- the back side is purplish
Turn it over- the back side is tinged with purple! There are five light green sepals there too.

The relatively small white flowers of Canada Violet are less than an inch across; they are made up of 5 white petals and 5 green sepals which are visible on the back. Each of the five petals is streaked with purple lines, one more so than the rest.  The very center of the flower is yellow and upon close inspection, you’ll notice that there are tiny tufts of hair on the base of two of the petals (they’re bearded!) If you turn the flower over (do it!) you’ll notice that the back side of the petals are slightly purplish. There is no obvious spur.

This is a woodland plant that thrives in shade or partial shade. You’ll find it blooming now (early May) and into the summer in local forests, where it self-seeds and forms small colonies. Don’t confuse it with Cream Violet, which is lower-growing, lacks the yellow throat on the face and purple shading on the back of the flower, and has lacerate stipules.

Try decorating your next salad or dessert with beautiful violet flowers. They’re edible!

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