Viola nephrophylla (Northern Bog Violet)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Violaceae (Violet)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist to wet; bogs, marshes, swamps, wet meadows, wet ditches, floodplains, calcareous fens
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:5 to 10 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
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] Irregular 5-petaled blue to purple flower less than ¾ inch (to 18 mm) long at the end of a long naked stalk usually held above the leaves at peak bloom. The 2 lateral petals have tufts of long, fine, white hairs at the base (bearded), the hairs typically more than 1 mm long. The lower petal is white at the base with dark purple veins radiating from the center, forms a slightly elongated spur at the back, and is also bearded but the hairs are hidden within the throat.

[photo of sepals and spur] Sepals are lance-oblong to narrowly egg-shaped, blunt to rounded at the tip, and hairless.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are all basal; color is medium green. Mature leaves are up to 2¾ inches (to 7 cm) long and nearly as wide, kidney to heart-shaped with a blunt or rounded tip; at flowering time, younger leaves are more typically longer than wide, rarely more than 1½ inches (~4 cm) long. Leaf edges are scalloped or have blunt serrations; surfaces are hairless, sometimes sparsely hairy on the upper surface, the lower surface sometimes purplish. Leaf stalks are hairless.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Both petalled (chasmogamous) and petal-less, self-pollinating (cleistogamous) flowers produce fruit, in an ovoid capsule up to about 3/8 inch (7 to 10 mm) long, initially green, erect when mature and drying tan.

[photo of seed] Seeds are medium brown to dark olive-brown, 1.3 to 1.9 mm long.


Northern Bog Violet has the widest distribution of the North American blue violets, covering all of Canada and most of the US except Alaska and the southeast and mid-Atlantic states. Several references note it having a preference for cold wet habitats such as bogs or in calcareous fens, but Minnesota herbarium collections are from all manner of moist to wet places including tamarack swamps, prairies, along river and stream banks, in rock crevices at the edge of a waterfall, and in wet woods. Most similar is Marsh Blue Violet (V. cucullata), which is distinguished from all other violets by its short (less than 1 mm long) club-shaped hairs on the lateral petals.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Pope and Ramsey counties.


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

Posted by: Max - C.N.C, Washington County MN
on: 2012-04-13 22:35:45

I found a bunch of these growing in a ravine there, I have also seen them before but I don't recall the other locations, took some pictures.

Posted by: Leesa - Isanti County, Cambridge/Dalbo area
on: 2012-05-11 12:16:16

Thank you for this site! I have been trying to figure out what these flowers were. Site was easy to use, easy to find what I was looking for. Will be marked as one of my favorites!

Posted by: Jordan - Golden Valley - Hennepin County
on: 2023-05-15 10:44:50

These are all over my front yard, right next to the sidewalk. Not a super wet spot, but they seem to like it.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-05-15 13:43:00

Jordan, purple violets that pop up in turf grass lawns tend to be either Viola sororia or V. communis rather than V. nephrophylla.

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