Viola pedatifida (Prairie Violet)

Plant Info
Also known as: Bearded Birdfoot Violet
Family:Violaceae (Violet)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry prairies, open woods
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:3 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
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-violet to purple flower ¾ to 1 inch (to 25 mm) long at the end of a stalk held above or among the leaves at peak bloom. The 2 lateral petals are white at the base with tufts of white hairs (bearded). The lower petal is white at the base with dark purple veins radiating from the center, forms a short spur at the back, and is also bearded but the hairs are hidden within the throat.

[photo of sepals and spur] Sepals are lance-shaped, pointed at the tip, and hairless. Flower stalks are hairless to sparsely hairy.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are all basal; color is green. Mature leaves are 1 to 2+ inches (to 55 mm) long, often wider than long (to 87 mm), triangular to kidney to broadly egg-shaped in outline, the blades deeply palmately lobed into 13 to 25 narrow segments, the lobes often further divided.

[photo of early leaves] The earliest leaves or smaller leaves later in the season may be more shallowly lobed, cleft only about halfway through the blade. Edges are minutely fringed and toothless; surfaces are hairless or minutely hairy along veins. Leaf stalks are hairless to sparsely hairy.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Both petalled (chasmogamous) and petal-less, self-pollinating (cleistogamous) flowers produce fruit, in an ovoid capsule up to about ½ inch (9 to 12 mm) long, initially green, erect when mature and drying tan. Seeds are medium brown, 1.7 to 2.2 mm long.


Prairie Violet, formerly Viola palmata var. pedatifida, may be confused with Birdfoot Violet (Viola pedata), which also has palmately lobed leaves. The easiest way to tell them apart is whether or not the flowers are bearded. Birdfoot Violet is beardless, has larger flowers, leaves are usually smaller with fewer divisions, and it does not produce cleistagmous flowers or fruit. Location can also help distinguish them with Prairie Violet fairly common in much of the state, except for the northeast and north-central counties, while Birdfoot Violet is restricted to the southeast and east-central counties.

Prairie Violet has been known to hybridize with some other Minnesota violets, notably Common Blue Violet (V. sororia) and Northern Bog Violet (V. nephrophylla), the hybrids showing intermediate traits in foliage and flowers and only producing fruit in cleistogamous flowers, though little viable seed is formed.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Out Back Nursery
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken Helen Allison SNA, Lost Valley Prairie SNA, Wild River State Park, and in Ramsey County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken at Whitewater Wildlife Management Area, in Anoka County and in his garden.


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

Posted by: Dustin - Ramsey Mill Pond WMA
on: 2010-05-18 08:57:02

It's a beautiful site to see along the trail access to the Cedar River!

Posted by: Darren Abbey - Saint Paul, near Battle Creek Regional Park.
on: 2018-12-15 14:57:14

I found two specimens in overgrown gardens at our house soon after we moved in. It took some time to identify them. I have been propagating them. Seed collected from cleistogamous flowers grew readily after spending a winter outside in the surface of soil. Their juvenile leaves look the same as those of Viola sororia, but they soon start producing the cut-leaves characteristic for the plant. I've allowed them to spread in our vegetable gardens. Their low height makes them inoffensive as a weed and their dense leaf cover seems to crowd out the weeds I don't like.

Posted by: Kimberly E. - Storden, Cottonwood County
on: 2019-05-29 10:05:26

I found approximately two dozen plants on private property three miles north of Storden in Cottonwood County.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.