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Violets
Violaceae
Viola odorata


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Type Categories Useful Parts

Herb



Violaceae Family

Viola Genus
Other Names for this Plant

Sweet-Scented Violet, Wood violet, Ordinary violet, Common blue violet, Sweet violet, Garden violet


Location

Europe, North America, Northern Asia, Central and South America

Physical Description
The sweet-scented Violet appears at the end of February and has finished blooming by the end of April.

The familiar leaves are heart-shaped, slightly downy, especially beneath, on stalks rising alternately from a creeping rhizome or underground stem, the blades of the young leaves rolled up from each side into the middle on the face of the leaf into two tight coils. The flower-stalks arise from the axils of the leaves and bear single flowers, with a pair of scaly bracts placed a little above the middle of the stalk.

The flowers are generally deep purple, giving their name to the color that is called after them, but lilac, pale rose-colored or white variations are also frequent, and all these tints may sometimes be discovered in different plants growing on the same bank.

They bear five sepals extended at their bases, and five unequal petals, the lower one lengthened into a hollow spur beneath and the lateral petals with a hairy centre line. The anthers are united into a tube round the three-celled capsule, the two lower ones furnished with spurs which are enclosed within the spur of the corolla.

The flowers are full of honey and are constructed for bee visitors, but bloom before it is really bee time, so that it is rare that a Violet flower is found setting seed. There is indeed a remarkable botanical curiosity in the structure of the Violet: it produces flowers both in the spring and in autumn, but the flowers are different. In spring they are fully formed, as described, and sweet-scented, but they are mostly barren and produce no seed, while in autumn, they are very small and insignificant, hidden away amongst the leaves, with no petals and no scent, and produce abundance of seed.




Compare Species
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Violaceae
Malpighiales
Malpighi Order
Oxid Clad
Oxid-Faba
Fabidae
Bean-Like Class
Eurosids
Real Rose Class
Rosids
Rosids
Rose-Like Class
Core Eudicots
Core Eudicots
Main, Real, Two First-Leaves (Dicots)
Eudicots
Eudicots
Real, Two First-Leaves (Dicots)
Mesangiospermae
Mesangiospermae
Half Capsule Seed Division
Magnoliophyta
Magnoliophyta
Magnolia Division
Spermatophytes
Spermatophytes
Seed Plants
Euphyllophytina
Real Land Plants
Polysporangiates
Multiple Spore Sub-Kingdom
Stomatophytes
Stomatophytes
Air Pores Sub-Kingdom
Embryophytes
Embryophytes
Multicellular Land Plants
Streptobionta
Streptobionta
Multicellular Plants
Plantae
Plantae
Plants
Eukaryota
Eukaryota
Cells with a Nucleus


General Information

In Macer's Herbal (tenth century) the Violet is among the many herbs which were considered powerful against 'wykked sperytis.'

Medicinal Uses: The Violet is still found in the Pharmacopoeias.

Violet flowers possess slightly laxative properties. The best form of administration is the Syrup of Violets. Syrop Violae of the British Pharmacopoeia directs that it may be given as a laxative to infants in doses of 1 2 to 1 teaspoonful, or more, with an equal volume of oil of Almonds.

Syrup of Violets is also employed as a laxative, and as a coloring agent and flavoring in other neutral or acid medicines.

The older writers had great faith in Syrup of Violets: ague, epilepsy, inflammation of the eyes, sleeplessness, pleurisy, jaundice, and quinsy are only a few of the ailments for which it was held potent. Gerard says: 'It has power to ease inflammation, roughness of the throat and comforteth the heart, assuageth the pains of the head and causeth sleep.

Food Uses: The small leaves and spring flowers make a fantastic salad! Violet yogurt is tasty and makes a good facial- stir in flowers to a good fresh yogurt and leave overnight.

Candied violets are delightful for cake decoration, but I can never get mine to crystallize in a pretty enough position- mine look like purple sodden lumps. Better crystallizers sell them commercially

Violets were also and still are used in cookery, especially by the French. 'Vyolette: Take flowrys of Vyolet, boyle hem, presse hem, bray (pound) hem smal,' and the recipe continues that they are to be mixed with milk and floure of rys and sugar or honey, and finally to be colored with Violets. A recipe called Mon Amy directs the cook to 'plant it with flowers of Violets and serve forth.'

A wine made from the flowers of the Sweet Violet was much used by the Romans.

Violets impart their odor to liquids, and vinegar derives not only a brilliant tint, but a sweet odor from having Violet flowers steeped in it.

The flowers are crystallized as an attractive sweetmeat, and in the days of Charles II, a favorite conserve, Violet Sugar, named then 'Violet Plate,' prepared from the flowers, was considered of excellent use in consumption and was sold by all apothecaries. The flowers have undoubted expectorant qualities.

Other Notes: You can make homemade litmus solution by filling a jar with violet flowers and boiling water. Strain after steeping it overnight. Acid turns it purple red and base turns it yellow green. Use to test whether your bilberry plant's soil needs acidifying.

There is a legend that when Jupiter changed his beloved Io into a white heifer for fear of Juno's jealousy, he caused these modest flowers to spring forth from the earth to be fitting food for her, and he gave them her name.

Violets were mentioned frequently by Homer and Virgil. They were used by the Athenians 'to moderate anger,' to procure sleep and 'to comfort and strengthen the heart.' Pliny prescribes a liniment of Violet root and vinegar for gout and disorder of the spleen, and states that a garland or chaplet of Violets worn about the head will dispel the fumes of wine and prevent headache and dizziness. The ancient Britons used the flowers as a cosmetic, and in a Celtic poem they are recommended to be employed steeped in goats' milk to increase female beauty, and in the Anglo-Saxon translation of the Herbarium of Apuleius (tenth century), the herb V. purpureum is recommended 'for new wounds and eke for old' and for 'hardness of the maw.'

The Ancient Greeks considered the Violet a symbol of fertility and love, they used it in love potions. Pliny recommended that a garland of them be worn about the head to ward off headaches and dizzy spells.

Violets, like Primroses, have been associated with death, especially with the death of the young. This feeling has been constantly expressed from early times. It is referred to by Shakespeare in Hamlet and Pericles and by Milton in Lycidas.

Not only is it the state flower for Wisconsin, but it also holds this title in Illinois, New Jersey, and Rhode Island





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