Birdfoot Violet (Viola pedata)

Bird-Foot Violet, Birdfoot Violet, Bird's Foot Violet, Violets

Birdfoot Violet (Viola pedata) is an evergreen perennial that is the host plant for Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies. Blooms in late spring with large purple flowers that have prominent yellow stamens. It is commonly found growing in rocky or dry open woods. Thrives in full sun and well-drained, unfertilized soil. A good choice for a rock garden.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Viola pedata, the birdsfoot violet, bird’s-foot violet, or mountain pansy, is a violet native to sandy areas in central and eastern North America.

There are three definite types. Viola pedata is the bi-color form.

The two upper petals are a deep violet color with a velvety texture. The color is so dark that it is sometimes described as purple. The three lower petals have been described variously as blue, lilac, and purple-lilac. The color is quite variable and a bit illusive.

There is also a white form, Viola pedata alba, and a form in which all the petals are light blue or lilac, Viola pedata lineariloba.

The latter is more common in Missouri though the white form has been reported. Some eastern writers describe only the bi-color form which suggests that it predominates in some areas.

The pale blue or lilac form is quite variable in its coloring in the Midwest. On some plants the blossoms are of such a delicate blue that may describe the color as an off shade of white.

In others the blue is more intense, and in some the color is lilac. We are told by reliable observers that occasionally a color between pink and lavender is found in the Missouri Ozarks.

All have orange centers that add to their attractiveness.

The leaves, unlike other violet plants, are divided somewhat similar to the foliage of the larkspur, only much more refined.

The flowers overlap the leaves so that frequently we are conscious only of the delicate beauty of the blossoms themselves and completely overlook the foliage.

In some specimens the petals are more rounded giving a pansy-like appearance to the flower. In others the petals are elongated making the blossoms appear more informal.

Its resemblance to a pansy has led to the frequently used common name of wild pansy. However, it is a true violet and not a pansy at all.

The birdsfoot violet has a wide distribution over the eastern half of the country. It is reported growing in areas bounded by a line from Massachusetts to Minnesota south to Louisiana and Florida. Wild flower publications from Missouri, Illinois, and Kansas list it as native.

Birdsfoot violet favors well drained, acidic soils in full to partial sun environments. It is difficult to cultivate in typical garden environments because it does not tolerate rich, organic garden soils and excess moisture.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

Birdfoot Violet’s requirement for sunlight is moderate. Although it loves sunlight, birdfoot Violet is also relatively shade-tolerant. Anyplace where there is sunshine in the daytime is suitable. Intense sunshine, as well as a relatively high temperature difference between day and night, helps to maintain its shape.

If birdfoot Violet suffers from seriously insufficient sunlight for long, the stems will become thin, long, and floppy. Protecting it from strong direct sunlight in summer is also advised. It can be sunburned to death due to high temperature.

Temperature

Birdfoot Violet is cold-resistant and moderately heat-resistant. Generally speaking, it flowers from spring to fall. Quantity of flowers may decrease in high temperatures. It can tolerate slight frost and snow cover in winter. If grown in a cold region, it should be kept warm in winter. In a word, it should be protected from high temperature and humidity in summer, and have less water in winter during its dormancy.

Watering

Birdfoot Violet is native to humid forests and mountainous areas, so it is not drought-tolerant. However, excessive watering will lead to the decay and death of the plant. If it is planted in gardens, water according to the weather conditions only to keep the soil from excessive dryness. In pots, water thoroughly when the soil surface is dry.

Soil

Birdfoot Violet likes moist, well-drained, air-permeable soil. A small amount of substrate, such as perlite, ceramsite, and vermiculite, can be added to the soil when planting.

Fertilizing

Common slow-release commercial compound fertilizers can be used for birdfoot Violet. During the growth and bloom time, thin compound liquid fertilizer can be applied once every two weeks. For specific application methods, please refer to the product specifications of the compound fertilizers.

Planting Instructions

Although it is a perennial plant, birdfoot Violet is usually replanted every year. Sow it from late fall to early spring of next year, and flowers will come in about two months after sowing. Try to choose a cool environment. Sprinkle seeds directly on the surface of the soil, and cover them with a thin layer of soil.

To sow indoors, wrap the seeds in a wet paper towel. Pack the paper-wrapped seeds into sealed bags or other containers and put them in the refrigerator or refrigerating chamber for 3-4 days to accelerate germination.

After the seedlings germinate, removethe top buds to facilitate the growth of lateral buds. This prevents seedlings from getting floppy and spindly, supports the plant shape, and increases the quantity of flowers. If the seedlings bloom early, early-blooming flowers can be removed so the plants accumulate energy to bloom more.

Propagation

Some varieties of birdfoot Violet are self-pollinated. They will bear fruits after flowering, and the ripe fruit will split into three petals. At this time, the seeds can be collected for sowing in the following year.

Transplanting

Transplanting birdfoot Violet is best in S1-S2, or alternatively, the cooler seasons, owing to its preference for mild temperatures. A location with full sun or partial shade is ideal. Remember, when necessary, transplanting should be gradual to minimize root shock, maintaining the health of your birdfoot Violet. Aim for these conditions to ensure successful transplanting.

III. Uses and Benefits 

There are over 200 species of violets distributed throughout the world, and their medicinal and culinary uses can be traced back to Roman times when they were used for making wine, syrups and vinegars. The leaves contain vitamins C and A and salicylic acid (like aspirin). They also have expectorant properties and have been used for respiratory disorders. Leaves are edible and can be added to salads and soups (as a thickener) and cooked as a leafy green. The flowers can be candied and used as a decoration or frozen in cubes to dress up summer drinks. They are sweet and slightly spicy.

Birdfoot Violet (Viola pedata) Details

Common name Bird-Foot Violet, Birdfoot Violet, Bird's Foot Violet, Violets
Botanical name Viola pedata
Plant type Herbaceous Perennial
Hardiness zone 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
Growth rate Medium
Harvest time Spring
Height 0 ft. 4 in. - 0 ft. 8 in.
Width 0 ft. 4 in. - 0 ft. 8 in.
Sunlight Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
Soil condition Sand
Flower color Blue
Leaf color Gray/Silver