Dwarf Marsh Violet
- Name also: Northern Marsh Violet
- Family: Violet Family – Violaceae
- Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock short. Runnerless.
- Height: 5–15 cm (2–6 in.). Stem an almost leafless scape, scaly bracts on upper half.
- Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, light blue–purplish, approx. 1.5–2.0 cm (0.6–0.8 in.) wide; petals 5, lowest 1.5–2.0 cm (0.6–0.8 in.) long, spurred. Sepals 5. Stamens 5. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Flowers solitary, nodding.
- Leaves: In basal rosette, stalked, stipulate, usually 2. Blade widely cordate, short-hairy underside, at least one with clear tip.
- Fruit: 3-valved capsule.
- Habitat: Moist stream-side broad-leaved forests, rich mixed swamps, moist meadows, springs, bogs, fens.
- Flowering time: May–June.
Dwarf marsh violet likes boggy forests, and it thrives best on a thin layer of peaty soil in fir forests. The species is only common from central Finland to the north and in the south-west it is rare. It has already disappeared from the Åland Islands. In the south it is replaced by smaller-sized marsh violet (V. palustris). Dwarf marsh violet is relatively large for its habitat, as are many of its relatives which thrive in wet and damp places.
Marsh violet and dwarf marsh violet cross easily with one another. The result of this, V. x fennica, produces seeds, albeit weakly, and otherwise behaves as an independent species, growing widely outwith dwarf marsh violet’s habitat. It is highly characteristic of V. x fennica that it grows with alder on the south-west coast and on the higher parts of shoreside meadows and ditchside thickets, far out in the archipelago too. In cross-breeding again with one of its parent plants the resulting plant becomes ‘purer’ again, and the seed production improves a little. These different degrees of hybrid can confuse classification, which is not easy at the best of times.
Dwarf marsh violet usually only has two widely cordate leaves, of which one has quite a tapered tip. Marsh violet on the other hand has blunt-tipped leaves. The underside of dwarf marsh violet’s leaves are sparsely haired, while marsh violet’s are hairless. The scape that rises from the rootstock has two small, scaly bracts on its upper half, while on marsh violet they are at the halfway mark at the highest.