Friday, March 7, 2014

Flower Friday: Spring brings native violets that are both pretty and tasty

Viola sororia. Photo/Walter K. Taylor
Violet (Viola sororia)                       

Dainty, ground-hugging, perennial, flowering and edible are just a few descriptions for Florida’s native violet. Viola sororia is Florida’s most common native violet. It is the variety we most often see in cultivated lawns.

This lovely plant is easily identified by its dark green, heart-shaped leaves and light-blue flower. Violets grow in clumps, forming a thick groundcover that will never need to be mowed. When grown in the right conditions, violets flower from spring through the summer months. Violet leaves, eaten in moderation, are quite healthy; they can be eaten raw, dried (as a tea), or cooked like spinach. (Note: Eating violet leaves in excess can cause nausea and vomiting.) The edible flower adds color to any salad and can also be candied. Both leaves and flowers have a slightly nutty, somewhat bland taste, but they are high in vitamins A and C.

Family: Violet Family (Violaceae); genus Viola
Hardiness: North, Central and South Florida (Zones 8–10).
Soil: Does best in rich, moist soils.
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade. The plants grow well in shade, but will not flower.
Growth habit: 4 inches high forming 6-inch clumps.  Violets are very easy to cultivate and will self-seed freely and can spread rapidly in the right conditions.
Flowers: The multi-petal blue flowers are slightly higher than the leaves.
Garden tips: Violets will typically self-seed, but it can also be propagated by separating the rhizomes.

- Dena Wild

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