Early Dog Violet
- Name also: Pale Wood Violet, Slender Wood Violet, Early Dog-violet
- Family: Violet Family – Violaceae
- Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock short, erect.
- Height: 10–15 cm (4–6 in.). Stem leafy.
- Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, purple, 1.2–1.8 cm (0.48–0.72 in.) wide; petals 5, narrow, not overlapping, lowest with narrow, straight, dark purple spur. Sepals 5. Stamens 5. A single carpel. Flowers solitary in axils, nodding.
- Leaves: With basal rosette and alternate on stem, stalked, stipulate. Blade widely cordate, with rounded teeth (crenate). Stipules narrowly ovate, long and slender toothed.
- Fruit: 3-lobed capsule.
- Habitat: Loamy broad-leaved forests, hardwood forests, hazel woods.
- Flowering time: May–June.
- Endangerment: Endangered, protected on the Åland Islands.
Early dog violet is a demanding central European deciduous forest-belt species, whose typical habitats are rich, calciferous broad-leaved forests. The species’ northernmost stand was not discovered in Finland until 1969. The less than ten Finnish habitats that are known to exist are in the Åland Islands in Lemland, Mariehamn, and most often on the island in front of Lemland. Early dog violet is to a certain degree difficult to recognize, so there may be a number of undiscovered habitats hidden among the islands. Early dog violet bears a close resemblance to common dog-violet, which is, in keeping with its name, more common in Finland. In their flowering times the species are quite easy to tell apart based on the colour of the spur and the width of the petals. After flowering it is more difficult to differentiate between the species, even if studying the stipules at the base of the leaves can help: early dog violet’s stipules are narrower and the slender teeth at their edges are longer. A hybrid between early dog violet and common dog violet is known to exist on the Åland Islands, making classification more difficult than before.
In keeping with other genus Viola plants, early dog violet also has a landing board for insects on its lowest petal. It has a lighter base with dark stripes across it which indicates the presence of nectar. These help the insect line up towards the petal’s spur, where the two stamens’ nectaries secrete their nectar. Violets also enlist the help of insects to spread: their elaiosomes form a nutritious appendage to the seed which ants like the taste of. As they eat this delicacy they carry the seed away from the mother plant until they finally drop it, sometimes in the ants’ nest and sometimes in a new habitat.