Photo of common violet
Julianna Schroeder

Violaceae (violets)


Stems, leaves or both with some degree of hairiness. Violet flowers have 5 petals, with the lower 3 usually larger: The lowest petal forms a spur containing nectar, and the 2 side petals have a tuft of hairs on the inner side. The color of this species is variable: Some forms have violet flowers; some have all-white flowers with purple veins on the lower petal. A third form, sometimes called the "Confederate violet," has grayish-white petals with violet or blue veins and more solid patches of these colors on the inner portion of the petals, forming a broad, U-shaped eyespot. Blooms March–June, and sporadically into early fall. Leaves are heart-shaped or rounded, scalloped, usually lower than the flowers.

Similar species: In Missouri, there are nearly 20 species in the genus Viola. Leaf shape and hairiness, habitat, and other details are necessary clues to determining exact species.


Height: to 6 inches (flowering stems).


Photo of common violet, Confederate violet form.
Common Violet ("Confederate Violet" Form)
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in rocky or dry open woods, thickets, borders of woods, mostly on hillsides, but also near streams and ponds, in ditches, and in other wet places. It is also found in yards and along roadsides and railroads. It is often cultivated. In the past, some forms of this species were considered a separate species, V. papilionacea.

image of Common Violet distribtuion map
Distribution in Missouri



This one species of violet is also called meadow violet, butterfly violet, woolly blue violet, and downy blue violet. The several other violets in our state also have several common names. This confusing tangle is one reason why botanists prefer to use Neo-Latin scientific names, where only a single two-parted name applies to each species.

Human connections

Violets have many uses as wild edibles. The flowers can be dipped in stiff egg whites, rolled in sugar, and allowed to dry, to make a striking, decorative confection. The flowers can also be made into jelly, and the leaves and flowers used in green salads.

Ecosystem connections

White-tailed deer and other animals nibble the leaves. Bees glean nectar from the flowers.