by Barry Glick
Living at 3000 feet in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia has some definite advantages.
For instance, there are almost 30 Viola species native to West Virginia and most of them can be found in the woods and meadows near my farm.
All of the species are abundant
in the wild and there is no such thing as a rare Viola. This
abundance does not diminish the joy of stumbling onto a new population.
They all make excellent garden plants and will surprise you as to how well they preform when you remove them from the competition of weeds, surrounding species and tree roots.
The earliest Viola to bloom in the spring is Viola rotundifolia. V. rotundifolia springs forth from a rather rough rootstock that becomes horizontal as the plant ages. The Spring leaves are orbicular or ovate and are mildly pubescent with short white hairs. The flower petals are bright primrose yellow with three lower brown striations, sometimes chocolate tinted. The summer leaves are almost orbicular, but cordate at the base. It is the only stemless yellow violet found in West Virginia. When I say stemless, I am referring to the plant not the flowers.
Viola hastata is a fascinating plant. Even if it never flowered it would be well worth growing for its silvery marbled foliage. The specific epithet hastata , refers to the almost arrow shape of the leaves. The variation among populations is astounding. I have spent much time in the woods leap frogging around on the ground looking at leaves as different as snowflakes. Viola hastata has yellow flowers.
Viola canadensis is the tallest of our native Viola species. As with the aforementioned species, this Viola can be found in moist rich woods throughout the state. Attaining a height of 12"-16", this specie has large white flowers with a spur petal yellow at the base and striped with fine, dark lines. The three lower petals are purple veined.
Viola pedata is known locally as the "Birds Foot Violet". This common name comes from the fact that the foliage resembles the shape of a birds foot. In contrast to the above species, Viola pedata is found mainly in a shale barren setting in well drained shaly, rock soil. It's variable colored flowers are among the most showy of the Genus. The flowers are produced in profusion in early spring and held well above the foliage. Colors range from pale blue to dark lilac. A friend in Decatur Georgia, Don Jacobs at Eco Gardens, has selected a lovely form and named it 'Eco Artists Pallete'.
Some of the other species of Viola that can be found in "The Mountain State" are:
V. cucullata, papilionacea, affinis, sagittata, emarginata, triloba, septentrionalis, fimbriatula, sororia, hirsutula, palmata, lanceolata, primulifolia, blanda, pallens, tripartata, pubescens, pennsylvanica, striata, conspersa, appalachiensis, rostrata, rafinesquii.
I hope that this brief foray into
one small area of our native flora has wet your appetite for native plants
and that you will come visit West Virginia, a true botanical paradise.