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Great-spurred Violet

Viola selkirkii

  • Name also: Northern Violet, Selkirk’s Violet
  • Family: Violet Family – Violaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock short.
  • Height: 5–15 cm (2–6 in.). Stem almost leafless scape, scale-like bracts on upper half.
  • Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, light blue–purple, approx. 1.5 cm (0.6 in.) wide; petals 5, with notched or entire tips, lowest with thick, blunt spur. Sepals 5. Stamens 5. A single carpel. Flowers solitary, nodding, weakly fragrant.
  • Leaves: With basal rosette, stalked, stipulate. Blade cordate, with rounded teeth (crenate), slightly shiny, dark green, upper side sparsely hairy, basal notch deep, narrow. Stipules fused with stalks, lanceolate, sparsely slender-toothed.
  • Fruit: 3-lobed capsule.
  • Habitat: Shaded rocky-based and stream-side broad-leaved forests, moss patches.
  • Flowering time: May–June.

Most plants have specialised to live in certain habitats; they do not thrive at all in other areas, so they are thus able to provide detailed information about the place they are growing. There can hardly be another genus in Finland – at least not one with only barely 20 members – which has adapted to live in as many habitats as violets have. This broad range of specialization is often referred to in the species’ names, e.g. marsh violet and yellow wood violet. Many violets are common wild flowers, even if their numbers are not so large. Plants are generally more abundant and diverse the richer and damper the ground is. Finland’s most impressive collection of herbs can be found in rich broad-leaved forests, and a large part of these vascular plants are specifically herbs. The diversity of Finland’s broad-leaved forests is complemented by great-spurred violet, which likes ferns. Its choice of habitat covers shady, broad-leaved forests that include a lot of fir trees, stream bogs and rich mixed swamps, and it also grows on mossy stones on the forest floor and the cracks between them.

Great-spurred violet has spread to Finland from the east during the late Ice Age, and this spread was halted by the warmer weather that followed. The species has its roots in the east, having spread west via the Karelian Isthmus, and its roots as a taiga plant are evident even today: it normally grows in northern Karelia and to the north of southern Häme, and the northernmost place that it had been found is in the ‘arm’ of Finland in north-west Lapland around the southern parts of Enontekiö. As a species that favours a continental climate, great-spurred violet does not grow at all on the south-west archipelago or the coast of the Gulf of Finland. The young leaf-rosette of common dog violet (V. riviniana) can be mistaken for great-spurred violet as the basal notch on the leaf can be similar, just as deep and with a constricted mouth. The leaves of great-spurred violet are however thinner, and the stipules are in relation wider and more sparsely slender-toothed. Great-spurred violet’s spur is clearly longer than common dog violet’s.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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