Viola sororia (Common Blue Violet)

Plant Info
Also known as: Woolly Blue Violet, Northern Blue Violet
Family:Violaceae (Violet)
Life cycle:annual, short-lived perennial
Habitat:shade, sun; woods, lawns, roadsides, fields
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:3 to 8 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

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

[photo of flower] Single flower at the end of a smooth to densely hairy but otherwise naked stem. Flowers are ¾ to 1 inch across, slightly irregular with 5 broadly spreading petals, the 2 side petals with thick tufts of white hairs (bearded) at the base. Petal color is typically a deep blue-violet, fading to white then pale yellow at the base, but this is a variable species that may have white or white and blue petals, all typically fading to pale yellowish at the base. The lower petal is heavily veined dark blue-violet, and forms a short rounded spur at the back that barely projects past the sepals. A plant has a few to several flowering stems arising directly from the rootstock.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are all basal, to 2 inches long and wide, generally heart shaped with rounded lobes at base, rounded teeth all around the edges, on a stem up to 6 inches long. Lower leaves have more rounded tips, upper leaves more tapering to a blunt tip.

[photo of leaf underside] The upper surface is smooth, the undersided hairy especially along veins. Rootstock is thick and multi branched, often forming colonies. Leaf and flower stems are typically hairy, but may be smooth.


This is a common urban violet, most likely in every county in Minnesota but with a few gaps in the herbarium collection. It is often weedy in gardens and lawns—my own yard is thick with it. I found it difficult to get rid of so caved in and now just let it grow where it will. Who wants a monoculture bluegrass lawn anyway, eh? Violets can be difficult to distinguish and Common Blue Violet's variability does not help with an ID. Typically it has bearded blue-violet flowers with a short spur, broad, heart-shaped basal leaves rounded or blunt at the tip, and is hairy to varying degrees. The white-petaled flowers may be confused for Canada White Violet (Viola canadensis), but it has stem leaves as well as basal leaves, and a much brighter yellow at the base of the petals. There are differences of opinion whether the different colored flowers are different species, or different varieties of V. sororia. Ditto those with hairy or smooth stems. At this time the DNR does not make any distinctions, so we won't either.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey and Chisago counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County and Whitewater Wildlife Management Area.


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

Posted by: Bonnie Haglund - Moorhead
on: 2011-05-18 17:17:58

How do they prapagate?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-05-18 18:55:20

It spreads primary by seed

Posted by: Ruth - Duluth
on: 2012-09-07 10:47:09

Does anyone know where I can find seeds for this plant? I'm looking for Minnesota-grown seeds, but will take those from other states if necessary (the closer the better).

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-09-09 07:14:54

Ruth, see "Where to buy native seeds and plants" that is displayed on almost every page of this web site. If you don't see the species you're looking for, ask the vendor about it. They can probably tell you if it's even generally available.

Posted by: Debbie J - St. Louis Park
on: 2016-04-14 09:51:47

I am trying to start a patch of native violets so I would like to know how to tell the difference between viola sororia and the non-native odorata. Thanks

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