By Dr. Bob Gilbert
During spring the woods, roadsides and even residential yards are scattered with various species of violets. Most are so recognizable that you would think they would be easy to identify down to the species level but they are not. Even scientists cannot agree on how many species there are worldwide. Plus some species cross pollinate with one another producing hybrids that add to taxonomic confusion.
All this is to say that in the world of violets all is not as simple as it seems. There are two types of showy blooms one that is on stems and the others are stemless. Note the photo of a stemmed violet with yellow blooms. Also violets leaf shapes vary which you would think would aid identification. But when a leaf description says slightly blunted or oval or not quite rounded you can get lost.
All parts of violets are edible. Blooms are added to salads, candied for taste and garnishes. The violet leaves are high in Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
I think the best thing to do with violets is to relax and simply enjoy them, discover as many varieties that you can find and reflect on the romantic prose and poetry that they have inspired:
And there of a sudden are violets,
wild spread to the ground in all places,
bright purple soft sparkling, spring’s mantle.
Joan Howard, Hiawassee Georgia
Roses are red,
violets are blue,
I love chocolate
more than you.
You’re the fairest
flower to me …
Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity song
Dr. Bob Gilbert’s articles are being reprinted with the permission of the Franklin Press in Franklin, North Carolina.