Viola primulifolia (Primrose-leaved Violet)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Violaceae (Violet)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist soil; open meadows, open woods, stream banks, fens
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:2 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
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] A single flower at the end of a naked stem that typically rises above the leaves. Flowers are white, about 1/3 inch wide, 5-petaled with purple streaks on the three lower petals. The lateral petals may be hairless or have a few sparse hairs at the base (bearded).

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

[photo of leaves] The leaves are all basal, spear to egg-shaped, the blade twice as long as wide, up to 3¾ inches long and 2 inches wide, tapering to a dull point at the tip, nearly straight to slightly heart-shaped at the base, the upper stalk narrowly winged. Leaf edges are typically scalloped but may be nearly toothless. Leaves and stems are generally hairless throughout except for a few sparse, compressed hairs along the lower leaf veins and sometimes on the flower stem.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a small, green, oval to egg-shaped capsule that is initially hanging but becomes erect when seed ripens, the capsule splitting into 3 parts and ejecting the seed out with great force.

[photo of seed] The seeds are egg-shaped, reddish brown to black, about 1 millimeter long.


Primrose-leaved violet is easily distinguished from all other violets by its unique leaf shape from which it gets its common name. There has been some debate on its status as a unique species, some recognizing it as a stable, natural hybrid between Small White Violet (Viola macloskeyi) and Lance-leaved Violet (Viola lanceolata), often present where the other two species are found together. In Minnesota, that is primarily within the Anoka Sandplain. The other side of this debate says it is a unique species, supported by the fact that the true hybrid is (probably? usually?) sterile. It can go either way but we're siding with the unique species group until further studies say otherwise.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Blaine, Anoka County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County and in a private garden in Ramsey County.


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

Posted by: Darcy B - Mahtomedi
on: 2017-05-18 23:56:12

this grows all over our 2.5 acre wooded lot

Posted by: Terry S - Minneapolis
on: 2018-04-09 13:26:57

Most current sources seem to recognize this as a true species. In fact, Michigan Flora appears to distinguish between this and the sterile hybrids of V. macloskeyi and V. lanceolata.

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