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Plant Description


Viola nephrophylla Greene

En: northern bog violet, blue prairie violet
Fr: violette n├ęphrophylle, violete des calcaires

Violaceae (Violet Family)

Click on thumbnail to see larger image.
Viola nephrophyllahab Viola nephrophyllaflpl Viola nephrophyllaflw Viola nephrophyllaill


General: A low, perennial forb, stemless, with shoots originating from short rhizomes. Plants of Viola neprophylla with white flowers have been named V. nephrophylla forma albinea Farw. Violet species are capable of hybridizing; plants that key to Viola nephrophylla, but have glabrous upper petals and slightly hairy leaves may represent hybrids with Viola sororia.

Nomenclatural Notes: Viola pratincola Brainerd is considered to be a synonym of Viola nephrophylla.

Leaves: Basal, simple, palmately-veined, petiole 2–16 cm long. Leaf blade broadly ovate to cordate or reniform, 2–6 cm long, as broad as or wider than long; leaves smooth (glabrous), lower surface often tinged with purple or blue; basal lobes cordate; apices blunt (obtuse) to rounded; margins with low rounded (crenate) teeth.

Flowers: Bisexual; petaliferous flowers 1.2–2.4 cm long, not fragrant; solitary on a slender, glabrous flower stalk (peduncle), about equal to or longer than the petioles. Sepals 5, lanceolate to ovate, with obtuse to rounded apices, short auricles, and entire (eciliate) margins; petals 5, deep purple, white at the throat, upper 2 petals glabrous or with a few scattered hairs; lateral 2 petals bearded; lower petal slightly shorter than the lateral petals, bearded, and bearing a short, saccate spur. Fertile cleistogamous flowers are produced on slender, erect green peduncles after petaliferous flowers are finished blooming. Petaliferous flowers bloom in May.

Fruit: An ellipsoid, green, 3-valved capsule, glabrous, 5–10 mm long. Seeds are buff to olive-brown or blackish. Fruits mature in summer.

Habitat and Range: Wet ground, sedge meadows, bogs and fens, wet depressions in limestone barrens, marl pond shores, rocky shores; usually in areas with calcareous bedrock. Viola nephrophylla is a boreal North American species that ranges from Newfoundland to British Columbia; it is found throughout northern Ontario.

Internet Images: The Viola nephrophylla webpage, from the Saskatchewan Native Plants/Wildflowers website.

This image of Viola neprhophylla is from CalPhotos, a photo database from the University of California at Berkeley.

Similar Species: In addition to the northern bog violet, there are 4 other common stemless blue violets in northern Ontario, outside of arctic areas. Like Viola nephrophylla, Viola cucullata (marsh blue violet) has glabrous leaves, but its lateral petals are bearded with club-shaped (clavate) hairs and the lower petal is beardless; V. nephrophylla has straight beard hairs. Viola selkirkii (Selkirk's violet) has paler, beardless flowers, leaves with hairs on the upper surface and basal lobes that touch or overlap. Viola sororia (woolly blue violet) can be recognized easily by its hairy stems and leaves, and ciliate sepals. Viola affinis (LeConte's violet) is most similar to Viola sororia, but it has longer, more triangular leaves, lacks cilia along the sepal margins, and prefers wetter habitats.

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