pa-04-2013.jpg

Bird's-Foot Violet
In springtime, bird's-foot violet can make a glade or bluff top heavenly with its pretty lavender and purple "faces."
Danny Brown
Other Common Name
Pansy Violet; Hens and Roosters
Family

Violaceae (violets)

Description

Bird's-foot violet has flowers about 1 inch across. The species has two color phases: either all 5 petals pale lilac or lavender, or the upper 2 petals deep velvety purple and the 3 lower petals pale lilac to lavender. Additionally, you might encounter rare color patterns such as all-white, or white with combinations of the above. The center of the united stamens is always deep orange. Blooms April–June. The leaves are deeply dissected “like a bird’s foot.” Leaves developing later in the season have somewhat wider, straplike segments.

Size

Height: to 6 inches.

birds_foot_violet_bicolored_3-26-12.jpg

Photo of bird's-foot violet (bicolored form)
Bird’s-Foot Violet (Purple and Lavender Form)
One of the color variations of bird’s-foot violet has 2 deep purple petals on top, and 3 lavender petals below.

birds_foot_violet_lavender_form_4-2-12.jpg

Photo of bird's-foot violet, lavender form
Bird's-Foot Violet (Lavender Form)
Bird’s-foot violet, named for its deeply lobed leaves, has two color phases. The one pictured here has all five petals pale lilac or lavender.
Habitat and conservation

Occurs on rocky, well-drained, usually acid soils of open woods, road embankments, glades, bluffs, and ridges. Appreciates disturbed areas with perfect drainage but cannot survive the later intrusion of competing plants.

image of Bird's Foot Violet Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Human connections

Though it can be difficult to supply the dry, sunny sites bird's-foot violet requires, this species can be used in home gardening. Always purchase your native wildflowers from a responsible dealer!

Ecosystem connections

This species is an excellent nectar plant for butterflies, and some butterflies, particularly the fritillaries, use the foliage of violets as their caterpillars' food plant.

The cobweb skipper is a single-brooded grass skipper that flies only from mid-April into May. The adults love to nectar at bird’s-foot violet, which starts blooming on Ozark glades in April. Cobweb skipper caterpillars eat big bluestem grass, which is also common in Ozark glades.