Dog Violets

2019 August 18

We were walking through the woods behind our house on June 3, 2019 when we found these tiny little wild violets. There is a power transmission line running through the woods, and these were growing in the treeless area under the power lines.


While the structure of the blossoms shows that they are clearly in the genus Viola, they are almost white with only a hint of violet coloring.


They also aren’t very big, as we can see by comparing them with the size of my thumb.


I am pretty sure that these are “Dog Violets”, Viola conspersa, a northern species that blooms very early in the spring. Wikipedia claims that they are called dog violets because they don’t have a smell. This seems a bit harsh to me. If I was going to call something a “Dog _____” due to its smell, it would be because it smelled like either a wet dog, or a dog’s breath, and not because it had no smell at all. For the record, I did not notice that these had a smell at all.


There are a lot of different species of violets. The ones that bloom right away in the spring, like these, are perennials that come up from a root, while many of the ones that bloom later in the year are annuals. In addition to being very attractive flowers, they are also the preferred food plant for Fritillary caterpillars. We’ve only gotten fritillary caterpillars once, and that time by accident, but recently we’ve started planting a lot of ornamental flowers in the violet genus (violets and pansies) in the hopes of getting more. An added bonus of these flowers is that deer do not seem to care for eating them very much, so we get to actually see the flowers (unlike tulips, which the deer think are absolutely delicious. They have also recently developed a taste for sunflower blossoms, although they don’t seem to like the stalks much. So we end up with a lot of bare tulip stems, and headless sunflowers).

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