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Marsh Violet

Viola palustris

  • Name also: Alpine Marsh Violet
  • Family: Violet Family – Violaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. With runners, forms stands in patches.
  • Height: 3–8 cm (1.2–3.2 in.). Stem almost leafless scape, scaly bracts at midpoint or lower.
  • Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, light purple, 10–15 mm wide; petals 5, round-tipped, lowest 8–10 mm (0.32–0.4 in.) long, spurred. Sepals 5. Stamens 5. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Flowers solitary, nodding, scentless.
  • Leaves: In basal rosette, stalked, stipulate, 3–4. Blade kidney-shaped, round-tipped, usually with rounded teeth (crenate), glabrous, shiny, light green. Stipules narrowly ovate, with entire margins–small-toothed.
  • Fruit: Spherical, glabrous, 3-valved capsule.
  • Habitat: Beaches, ditch banks, moist meadows and forests, bogs.
  • Flowering time: May–June.

Marsh violet’s pale purple flowers are dotted across wetlands at the end of spring and early summer covering even acres of land – its runners help the species create large stands. United marsh violet stands can be seen especially in boggy forest land and around stream banks and springs; it often grows here and there on bogs and flood-influenced shores alone or in small patches. Its leaves stay small and pale until it flowers, but later in the summer they get darker and grow bigger, eventually even covering the soil with a leaf canopy. Small-sized marsh violet’s beautiful flowers reveal themselves only by bowing down to the ground. Some of the flowers attract pollinators and some are self-pollinating, but they look the same. Marsh violet’s seeds lack the elaiosome that is characteristic of many of its relatives because ants do not traverse boggy ground.

In southern and central Finland marsh violet is usually found in boggy land, but it begins to become rarer further north around Oulu. It grows however in damp meadows, sloping bogs and along stream banks in the tundra region on the Lappish fells. Its close relative dwarf marsh violet (V. epipsila) can be found in somewhat the opposite places: it is quite common in the north, becoming rarer in central Finland, and is very hard to find in the south. Both species like damp habitats, but apart from woods and boggy broad-leaved forests, dwarf marsh violet is the only one that grows on meadows that are prone to flooding. The species share sufficient habitat and preferences, however, so they sometimes grow together and easily cross-breed. This hybrid (V. x fennica) produces some viable seeds and also cross-breeds with its original parent plants. Over time this has led to the creation of a whole series of mutations which can make classification difficult.

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

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