Viola adunca (Sand Violet)

Plant Info
Also known as: Hooked-spur Violet, Western Dog Violet, Early Blue Violet
Family:Violaceae (Violet)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry sandy or rocky soil; open woods, Jack pine forest, rock outcrops, rocky or sandy banks
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:3 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FACU
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 flowers] Single irregular 5-petaled flower at the end of a minutely hairy stalk arising from a leaf axil. Flowers are purple to blue-violet with a white throat, up to ~2/3 inch (≤ 16 mm) long. The upper two petals are erect or bent back, the two lateral petals have short hairs at the base (bearded), the lower petal is hairless, has purple veins near the base, and forms a short rounded spur at the back.

[photo of sepals and spur] The 5 sepals around the base of the flower are hairless or minutely hairy along the midvein, the two lower largest, narrowly lance-shaped to linear, tapering to a pointed tip, and have a short or prominent extension at the base (auricle) that may be notched along the end and may elongate some in fruit.

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

[photo of leaves] There are both stem and basal leaves; color is blue-green. Leaves are up to 1½ inches (to 4 cm) long, ½ to 1 inch wide, triangular to egg-shaped, rounded to straight across to slightly heart-shaped at the base, rounded or blunt at the tip, and on a long stalk. Leaf edges are scalloped to nearly toothless and often fringed with minute hairs; surfaces are minutely hairy, especially the lower surface.

[photo of stem leaves] At the base of a leaf stalk is a pair of leafy appendages (stipules) that are typically narrow with a few long, slender teeth or lobes. Stems are usually minutely hairy, rarely hairless, with multiple leafy stems arising from the base.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of chasmogamous fruit]  Both petalled (chasmogamous) and petal-less, self-pollinating (cleistogamous) flowers produce fruit, in an ovoid capsule that becomes erect just before splitting into 3 sections and releasing its seed. Chasmogamous flowers bloom in spring. Cleistogamous flowers are produced all summer. All capsules are about 1/3 inch (6 to 9 mm) long, green drying tan, with or without fine red spots.

[photo of seeds] Seeds are medium to dark brown, 1.5 to 2 mm long.


There are numerous species of blue or purple violets that grow in Minnesota. Three distinguishing features in identifying them are whether the flowers and leaves come from the same stem, whether petals are bearded, and whether leaves, stems and stalks are hairy. All three are true for Sand Violet; it is further distinguished by its blue-green leaves that are rounded to straight across to somewhat heart-shaped at the base, and long spur on the flowers. It is often confused with Dog Violet (Viola labradorica a.k.a. V. conspersa), which also has both stem and basal leaves, but it is hairless, flowers are a paler violet, leaves are more yellow-green in color and more strongly heart-shaped at the base. These two species have been known to hybridize but there are no records of this hybrid in Minnesota.

Of note is some references mention differences in the stipules between V. adunca and V. labradorica, specifically the former being more strongly incised/toothy than the latter, but I have seen a lot of variation in both species so found that to be unreliable in the field.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken at Vermillion Falls, Dakota County and Jay Cooke State Park, Carlton County.


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

Posted by: Nick - Lilydale Park, St Paul
on: 2012-04-11 13:25:47

These flowers were blooming on 4/11 on the edge of the gravel parking lot in Lilydale park. It was the parking lot next to Pickerel Lake.

Posted by: Sherry Gray - Grey Cloud Dunes SNA
on: 2020-05-18 19:32:10

I think this is what I saw today May 18, 2020 at GCD SNA

Posted by: Cara - Finland
on: 2022-06-25 16:20:22

We have them by our home, which is basically in the woods of Finland, MN

Posted by: Rachel Lindahl - Boom Island Park in Minneapolis
on: 2024-04-30 18:47:42

I found these on 04/30/24 growing in a crack in the concrete. Beautiful deep puple color

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