May 28, 2017

True Blue

Viola soraria - common blue violet | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Viola soraria – common blue violet | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

So widespread that some consider it a weed, Viola soraria is the common blue violet, gracing lawns with abandon. Interestingly, the species varies, somewhat according to its location, with northern New England’s violet different from those from the South. Violets have lots of similarities, so identification depends on the following: “broad, heart-shaped leaves; flowers and leaves on separate stems that arise from the roots; flowers do not stand much above the leaves (compare to marsh blue violet); and the lowest petal does not have a spur (compare to great-spurred violet).” Also known as woolly blue violet, V. soraria has a curious relationship with ants. Go Botany says the seeds have food bodies attached (called elaisomes) that attract ants, who remove the seeds to their nests. The ants then take off the edible parts and discard the seed “in a nutrient-rich waste pile.” Any guesses what the seed then does?

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.

In 2012, Glen began working to catalog the plants of Baxter State Park, which you can read about here and find out how to sponsor a plant of your own. Courtesy of a poll taken in 2012, Garden Maine is sponsoring this lovely plant.