Beneficial Insects Composting Fertilize & Mulch Garden Plans Quick Tips Specialty Gardens

Gardening – Wisconsin Native Violets

Halberdleaf Yellow Violet,Viola hastata Violets are often bemoaned as weeds when found in lawns and otherwise impugned for their tendency to easily reseed and spread. Once you start wandering in the woods you'll be amazed at how many violet species turn up, including white, yellow and even green flowered species. Fourteen native violet names are listed for Wisconsin. The Common Blue Violet, Viola sororia, is the Wisconsin state flower.

With their heart shaped leaves and cheery blue flowers, violets aren’t really bad guys – in fact they are the host plant for a wide range of butterflies known as fritillaries. Like monarchs, whose caterpillars only feed on milkweed, the fourteen species of greater fritillaries (genus Speyeria) and sixteen lesser fritillaries (genus Bolloria) will only lay their eggs where there are violets for their larva to feed upon.

Violets gain the benefits of genetic diversity through insect pollination as well as of being able to reproduce outside of insect pollinators range through self-pollination.

Great Spangled Fruitillary caterpillar on violet Female Great Spangled Fritillaries seem to be able to find the violets even after they have wilted and blown away. It is possible that they can smell the roots of violets. Curiously, females of other species of fritillaries do not appear to be terribly careful about finding the presence of violets; they seem to choose shaded, weedy places that are likely to favor the growth of violets, thus many eggs are lost when the larvae search in vain for their food and cannot find it. These mothers can afford to be careless because they lay as many as two thousand eggs, so it does not matter if many are lost.

Violets are also host plants for the Mining Bee, a specialist pollinator that only visits violets.

An interesting thing about violets, members of the genus viola, is that most species after producing regular flowers will sometimes form tiny, inconspicuous flowers, cleistogamous flowers, that look simply like buds that haven't bloomed. These flowers are being pollinated, but through self-pollination! The pollen travels from the stamen down into the flower's own ovary. Pollinators such as bees never can get to the flowers' sexual parts, and the flowers are obliged to fertilize themselves with their own pollen. The violet flowers gain the benefits of genetic diversity through insect pollination as well as of being able to grow outside of insect pollinators range through self-pollination.

Of course, self-fertilizing like this, there is no mingling of genetic information from two different parents. However, this was accomplished with the regular flowers produced earlier in the season. However, fruit capsules developed from cleistogamous flowers typically produce lots of perfectly fertile seeds.

Wisconsin Native Violet Catalog

Arrow-Leaved Violet, Viola sagittata Arrow-Leaved Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies
Height: 4-8 inches
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun, Part Sun
Zones: 3, 4, 5
Soil: Loam, Sand, Clay, Rocky
Moisture: Dry, Medium, Moist
Color: Blue, Purple
Birdfoot Violet, Viola pedata Birdfoot Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies<
Height: 3-6 inches
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun
Zones: 4, 5
Soil : Sand, Rocky
Moisture: Dry, Medium
Color: Purple, Violet
Canada Violet, Viola canadensis Canada Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies<
Height: 1-3 feet
Bloom Time: Late Summer/Summer
Sun: Shade
Zones: 3, 4, 5
Soil: Loam
Moisture: Moist
Color: Orange, White
Common Blue Violet, Viola sororia Common Blue Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies<
Height: 6-12 inches
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun, Part Sun
Zones: 3, 4, 5
Soil: Loam
Moisture: Moist
Color: White, Blue, Pink, Purple
Downy Yellow Violet, Viola pubescens Downy Yellow Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies<
Height: 6-12 inches
Bloom Time: Late Spring/Summer
Sun: Part Sun, Part Shade
Zones: 4, 5
Soil: Loam
Moisture: Dry
Color: Orange, Yellow
Early Blue Violet, Viola palmata Early Blue Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies<
Height: 6-12 inches
Bloom Time: Late Spring/Summer
Sun: Part Shade
Zones: 4, 5
Soil: Loam
Moisture: Moist
Color: Purple
Field Pansy, Viola bicolor Field Pansy
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies<
Height: 3-6 inches
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun
Zones: 5
Soil: Loam, Sand
Moisture: Moist
Color: Yellow, Violet
Halberdleaf Yellow Violet, Viola hastata Halberdleaf Yellow Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies
Height: 6-12 Inches
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun
Zones: 5
Soil: Loam
Moisture: Dry
Color: White, Yellow
Labrador Violet, Viola labradorica Labrador Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies<
Height: 3-6 inches
Bloom Time: Summer
Sun: Full Sun, Part Sun
Zones: 3, 4, 5
Soil: Loam, Sand
Moisture: Dry, Medium
Color: Blue, Purple, Lavender
Lanceleaf Violet, Viola lanceolata Lanceleaf Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies<
Height: 3-6 inches
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Part Shade, Shade
Zones: 3, 4, 5
Soil: Loam, Clay
Moisture: Moist, Wet
Color: White
Longspur Violet, Viola rostrata Longspur Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies<
Height: 1-3 feet
Bloom Time: Late Spring/Summer
Sun: Shade
Zones: 4, 5
Soil: Loam
Moisture: Moist
Color: Purple
Marsh Blue Violet, Viola cucullata Marsh Blue Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies<
Height: 6-12 inches
Bloom Time: Late Spring/Sunner
Sun: Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Zones: 4, 5
Soil: Clay, Loam, Sand
Moisture: Moist, Wet
Color: Blue, Violet
Sweet White Violet, Viola blanda Sweet White Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies<
Height: 3-6 inches
Bloom Time: Late Spring/Summer
Sun: Part Shade
Zones: 3, 4, 5
Soil: Loam
Moisture: Medium, Moist, Wet
Color: White
Threepart Violet, Viola tripartita Threepart Violet
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies<
Height: 12-18 inches
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Part Shade, Shade
Zones: 5
Soil: Loam
Moisture: Moist, Wet
Color: Yellow

Further Information

Wisconsin Native Fruit Trees
Wisconsin Native Berry Shrubs
Dandelion Recipes
4 Ways To Use Eggshells For Your Plants
10 Ways to Use Banana Peels in Your Garden