Viola labradorica (Dog Violet)
|Also known as:||American Dog Violet, Alpine Violet, Labrador Violet|
|Habitat:||shade, sun; moist to wet soil; woods, ravines, floodplains, swamps, bogs, rock ledges|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||1 to 8 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Pale lavender to light blue 5-petaled flower ½ to 2/3 inch (to 17 mm) long at the end of a naked stalk arising from a leaf axil. The 2 lateral petals have small tufts of white hairs at the base (bearded). The lower petal is white at the base with dark purple veins radiating from the center, and forms a long spur at the back.
The spur is typically slightly curved upward. Sepals are narrowly triangular to lance-linear, pointed at the tip, hairless. A plant typically has a few to several flowers and can start blooming when it is less than 1 inch tall.
Leaves and stem:
There are both basal leaves and stem leaves; color is light to medium yellow-green. Both are up to about 1¼ inches (to 31 mm) long and about as wide, round to kidney to heart-shaped with a blunt or rounded tip. Edges are scalloped, surfaces are mostly hairless, sometimes with sparse appressed hairs on the upper surface. At the base of a leaf stalk is a pair of leafy appendages (stipules), lance-elliptic with a few teeth along the edge. Stems are hairless, with multiple leafy stems arising from the base. Loose colonies may form from long rhizomes.
Both petalled (chasmogamous) and petal-less, self-pollinating (cleistogamous) flowers produce fruit, in an ovoid capsule up to about ¼ inch (3 to 6 mm) long, initially green and dangling, becoming erect when mature and drying tan. The mature capsule splits into 3 sections, each containing several brown seeds 1.5 to 2 mm long.
There are about 10 species of blue or purple violets that grow in Minnesota. Two distinguishing features in identifying them are whether the flowers and leaves come from the same stem, and whether the side petals are bearded. Both are true for Dog Violet. Very similar is Sand Violet (Viola adunca), which also has both stem and basal leaves, but has darker blue-violet flowers, a somewhat longer spur, narrower stipules, leaves more blue-green in color, and is usually noticeably hairy on leaves, stems and stalks. These two species have been known to hybridize but there are no records of this hybrid in Minnesota. Dog Violet commonly goes by synonym Viola conspersa.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Dog Violet plants
- a clump of Dog Violet with the rhizome
- loose colony of Dog Violet in a moist woods
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Chisago and Ramsey counties. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?