Viola pedata (Birdfoot Violet)

Plant Info
Also known as: Beardless Birdfoot Violet
Family:Violaceae (Violet)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry sandy or rocky soil; prairies, open woods
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:3 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: UPL NCNE: UPL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: irregular

[photo of flowers] Irregular 5-petaled blue to purple flower to 1+ inch (to 30 mm) long at the end of a naked stalk usually held above the leaves at peak bloom. The 2 lateral petals lack tufts of hairs at the base (beardless). The lower petal is white at the base with dark purple veins radiating from the center, and forms a short spur at the back. A tight group of orange stamens pokes out from the throat. Sepals are lance-linear, pointed at the tip, and hairless.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed

[photo of leaves] Leaves are all basal; color is green to gray-green. Mature leaves are up to about 1½ inches (to 4 cm) long and about as wide, egg to kidney-shaped in outline, the blades deeply palmately lobed into narrow segments with 3 main lobes, the lateral lobes each further divided into 3 to 5 lobes. Edges are toothless; surfaces are hairless, occasionally sparsely hairy. Leaf stalks are hairless.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is an ovoid capsule up to 3/8 inch (5 to 10 mm) long, initially green, erect when mature and drying brown. It splits into 3 sections and contains many copper-colored seeds 1.7 to 1.8 mm long.


Birdfoot Violet may be confused for Prairie Violet (Viola pedatifida), which is found in the same habitat, blooming about the same time, and also has palmately lobed leaves. The flowers are distinctly different, however; those of Prairie Violet are smaller and the lateral petals are bearded, plus its leaves typically are larger and have more divisions. Location within the state can also be a distinguishing factor; Minnesota is on the northwest edge of Birdfoot Violet's range, so it's limited to our southeast and east-central counties, where Prairie Violet may be found in much of the state, except the northeast and north-central counties. Most references note that sometimes Birdfoot Violet has dark purple upper petals and lighter lower petals, but we have not seen this in the wild in Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County, McKnight Prairie in Dakota County, and in his garden.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Neville - Grey Cloud Dunes SNA
on: 2011-05-17 09:41:50

Masses of violet on dune crests and southwest facing slopes overlooking the Mississippi River

Posted by: becky - pope county- lake street near lake villard, villard, mn
on: 2011-06-02 23:15:32

They grow along lake street in villard at the side of the road near the farm my grandfather used to rent. I used to see them in the spring, and they were blooming last saturday (5/28/11) when i was back up there. The leaf style is very narrow/delicate- much more like the "wild" picture you show than the "garden grown" picture's leaves.

Posted by: Michelle - Weaver
on: 2015-04-16 21:20:38

At Weaver Dunes, Weaver MN 2014

Posted by: Ken - Dakota County, Hastings Sand Coulee
on: 2016-05-10 12:54:01

Own 14 acres, over half is native prairie which includes the Sand Coulee. These flowers thrive here and are in bloom now.

Posted by: Gary - Pine County
on: 2019-01-24 08:38:22

I've seen this along the sides of I-35 a little north of Hinckley where it passes through the General C. C Andrews state forest.

Posted by: Daniela Bell - Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, Cottage Grove
on: 2021-05-06 21:30:08

Really lovely population on the prairie dunes at the SNA. Lots of flower color variation from deep purple to white.

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