From The Plant Encyclopedia
2 - 12
- Cultivation: Naturalizing, Easy-To-Grow
- Light: Sun, Dappled, Part-Shade, Shade
- Soil: Rich
- pH: 7
- Moisture: Wet, Medium
- Form: Shrub, Herbaceous
- Habit: Perennial, Annual
- Flower: Medium, Petals, Red, Pink, Purple, White, Black
- Fruit/Seed: Small
- Foliage: Leaves, Green, Purple
- Uses: Edible, Medicinal, Ornamental, Houseplant
Viola (most commonly pronounced /vaɪˈoʊlə/ in US English and /ˈviːələ/ in UK English<ref>The pronunciation /vaɪˈoʊlə/ (Template:Respell) is the most common one in US English, but US dictionaries also record (less common) use of /viˈoʊlə/ (Template:Respell) and /ˈvaɪ.ələ/ (Template:Respell): American Heritage Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. The only pronunciation recorded by the fckLRCompact Oxford English Dictionary is /ˈviː.ələ/ (Template:Respell). Compare with the US and UK pronunciations of the musical instrument of the violin family called viola, which is pronounced /viˈoʊlə/ (Template:Respell) in US English, but which is pronounced that way or /vaɪˈoʊlə/ (Template:Respell) in UK English.</ref>) is a genus of flowering plants in the violet family Violaceae, with around 400–500 species distributed around the world. Most species are found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, however viola species (commonly called violets, pansies or heartsease) are also found in widely divergent areas such as Hawaii, Australasia, and the Andes in South America.
Most Viola species are tiny Perennial plants, some are annual plants, and a few are small shrubs. A number of species are grown for their ornamental flowers in borders and rock gardens; the garden pansy in particular is an extensively used spring and autumn/winter bedding and pot plant. Viola and violetta are terms used by gardeners and generally in horticulture for neat, small-flowered hybrid plants intermediate in size between pansies and violets.<ref name="americanvioletsociety.org">http://www.americanvioletsociety.org/Species_N_Cultivars/Pansy.htm (Accessed 14 Oct 2008)</ref><ref>http://www.rhs.org.uk/RHSPlantFinder/GenusClass.asp?Genus=Viola (Accessed 14 Oct 2008)</ref>
DescriptionViola species typically have heart-shaped, scalloped leaves, though a number have palmate leaves or other shapes. The vast majority of Viola species are herbaceous, and a substantial number are acaulescent in habit - meaning they lack any noticeable stems and the foliage and flowers appear to rise from the ground; the remaining species have short stems with foliage and flowers produced in the axils of the leaves. The simple leaves of plants with either habit are arranged alternately; the acaulescent species produce basal rosettes. Plants always have leaves with stipules that are often leaf-like.
Solitary flowers end long stalks with a pair of bracteoles. The flowers have 5 sepals that persistent after blooming, and in some species the sepals enlarge after blooming. The flowers have five free stamens with short filaments that are oppressed against the ovary, only the lower two stamens have nectary spurs that are inserted on the lowest petal into the spur or a pouch. The flower styles are thickened near the top and the stigmas are head-like, narrowed or often beaked. The flowers have a superior ovary with one cell, which has three placentae, containing many ovules.
After flowering, fruit capsules are produced that split open by way of three valves.<ref>Cullen, J. 2001. Handbook of North European garden plants with keys to families and genera. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Page 345.</ref> Viola flowers are most often spring blooming with chasmogamous flowers with well developed petals pollinated by insects. Many species also produce self-pollinated cleistogamous flowers in summer and autumn that do not open and lack petals.<ref>Walters, Dirk R., and David J. Keil. 1996. Vascular plant taxonomy. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co. Page 332.</ref> The nutlike seeds have straight embryos, flat cotyledons, and soft fleshy endosperm that is oily.<ref>Cronquist, Arthur. 1981. An integrated system of classification of flowering plants. New York: Columbia University Press. Page 404.</ref> The seeds are often spread by ants.
Flower colours vary in the genus, ranging from violet, as their common name suggests, through various shades of blue, yellow, white, and cream, whilst some types are bicolored, often blue and yellow. Many cultivars and hybrids have been bred in a greater spectrum of colours. Flowering is often profuse, and may last for much of the spring and summer.
One quirk of some viola is the elusive scent of their flowers; along with terpenes, a major component of the scent is a ketone compound called ionone, which temporarily desensitises the receptors of the nose, thus preventing any further scent being detected from the flower until the nerves recover.
Note: Neither Saintpaulia ("African violets") nor Erythronium dens-canis ("dogtooth violets") are related to the true Viola.
The genus includes dog violets, a group of scentless species which are the most common viola in many areas, sweet violet (Viola odorata) (named from its sweet scent), and many other species whose common name includes the word "violet". Several species are known as pansies, including the yellow pansy (Viola pedunculata) of the Pacific coast.
Common blue violet Viola sororia is the state flower of Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Illinois, and New Jersey.
Australia is home to a number of Viola species, including Viola hederacea, Viola betonicifolia and Viola banksii.
The modern garden pansy (V. × wittrockiana) is a plant of complex hybrid origin involving at least three species, V. tricolor (wild pansy or heartsease), V. altaica and V. lutea (mountain pansy).
Species and cultivars
Cultivars of Viola cornuta, Viola cucullata, Viola odorata, are commonly grown from seed. Other species often grown include Viola labradorica, Viola pedata and Viola rotundifolia.<ref name="Armitage1989">Template:Citation</ref>
The plants known to gardeners as "violas" are common bedding and pot plants world wide. In 2005 in the United States, violas (including pansies) were one of the top three bedding plant crops and 111 million dollars worth of flats of violas were produced for the bedding flower market.<ref>http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/EP327</ref> Pansies and violas used for bedding are generally raised from seed, and F1 hybrid seed strains have been developed which produce compact plants of reasonably consistent flower colouring and appearance. Bedding plants are usually discarded after one growing season.
There are hundreds of perennial viola and violetta cultivars; many of these do not "come true" from seed and therefore have to be propagated from cuttings. Violettas can be distinguished from violas by the lack of ray markings on their petals.<ref name="americanvioletsociety.org" /> A few popular examples include:<ref>RHS Plant Finder 2008-2009, Dorling Kindersley (2008) ISBN 978-1-4053-3190-6 pp787–791</ref>
- Viola 'Ardross Gem' (viola)
- Viola 'Buttercup' (violetta)
- Viola 'Columbine' (viola)
- Viola 'Dawn' (violetta)
- Viola 'Etain' (viola)
- Viola 'Irish Molly' (viola)
- Viola 'Jackanapes' (viola)
- Viola 'Maggie Mott' (viola)
- Viola 'Martin' (viola)
- Viola 'Molly Sanderson' (viola)
- Viola 'Rebecca' (violetta)
- Viola 'Vita' (viola)
- Viola 'Zoe' (violetta)
- viola 'Blackjack'
Not all violets are desired, and wild violets function as a weed in North American lawns. Wild violets are a problem in shady fescue lawns in North America. Violets thrive in the part/full shade and are not susceptible to most herbicides used to kill common lawn weeds. Triclopyr, a weedkiller, has been found to be an effective method of controlling wild violets in fescue lawns.
When newly opened, Viola flowers may be used to decorate salads or in stuffing for poultry or fish. Soufflés, cream and similar desserts can be flavoured with essence of Viola flowers. The young leaves are edible raw or cooked as a somewhat bland leaf vegetable. The flowers and leaves of the cultivar 'Rebecca', one of the Violetta violets, has a distinct vanilla flavor with hints of wintergreen, however, that is quite delicious in salads.
The French are also known for their violet syrup, most commonly made from an extract of violets. In the United States, this French violet syrup is used to make violet scones and marshmallows.
Viola essence flavours the liqueurs Creme Yvette, Creme de Violette, and Parfait d'Amour. It is also used in Parma Violets confectionery.
The flowers, leaves and roots of various Viola species are used for medicinal purposes, being rich in vitamins A and C. They also contain a type of antioxidant called an anthocyanin. Viola flowers are also used to make an herbal tea that is used in Chinese herbal medicine.
Viola odorata is used as a source for scents in the perfume industry. Violet is known to have a flirty scent as its fragrance comes and goes. Ionone is present in the flowers, which turns off the ability for humans to smell the fragrant compound for moments at a time<ref>Ackerman, Diane. A natural history of the senses. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Print.</ref>.