Northern Ontario Plant Database
Viola renifolia A.Gray
En: kidneyleaf violet
Violaceae (Violet Family)
General: A low, perennial forb; young plants spreading from a slender rhizome; older plants have a thicker, scaly rhizome, 2–4 mm wide; stolons rarely produced, but if present, producing cleistogamous flowers; pubescence of leaves and flowering stalks (peduncles) variable, hairy to smooth (glabrous). Plants that are glabrous or nearly so, especially on the upper leaf surface, have been described as var. brainerdii (Greene) Fernald.
Leaves: Basal, simple, palmately-veined; petioles 3–15 cm long, green to purplish. Leaf blade broader than long, kidney-shaped (reniform) to nearly round (orbicular), 1.5–8 cm wide at maturity; leaves hairy on both surfaces, particularly on young leaves, often becoming smooth (glabrate) with age, or with fine hairs borne only along the veins; basal lobes cordate; margins crenate and undulate, with widely spaced, low teeth. Early leaves have rounded tips and shallow sinuses, later leaves have blunt (obtuse) tips and deeper sinuses.
Flowers: Bisexual, slightly fragrant, 0.7–1 cm across; peduncles green, hairy or smooth, usually shorter than the mature leaves. Sepals 5, narrowly lanceolate, margins entire; petals 5, white, all beardless, upper petals usually reflexed at maturity, lateral and lower petals veined with purplish-brown, particularly the lower petal, which ends in a short spur. Flowers blooming in mid to late May and early June.
Fruit: An ellipsoid capsule, green, glabrous, 4–5 mm long; capsules from cleistogamous flowers are purplish; seeds brown, marked with darker spots, 1.9–2.4 mm long, with a prominent caruncle, to 0.5 mm long. Fruits mature in early summer.
Habitat and Range: Moist cedar woods and swamps, ravines in limestone barrens, often in association with Calypso bulbosa (fairy slipper orchid), Goodyera oblongifolia (Menzies' rattlesnake plantain), and Goodyera tesselata (checkered rattlesnake plantain). Viola renifolia is a boreal North American species with a range extending from Newfoundland and Labrador to southern Alaska; in northern Ontario, it extends as far north as wooded regions of the Hudson Bay Lowlands.
Similar Species: In addition to the kidneyleaf violet, there are 3 other stemless white violets in northern Ontario. Of these, Viola lanceolata (lanceleaf violet) is most easily identified, as it is the only violet with narrow, lanceolate to oblanceolate leaves. The remaining species both have cordate to reniform leaves and are not usually found in areas with limestone bedrock. Viola macloskeyi (northern white violet) has noticeably fragrant, beardless flowers, glabrous leaves, and bears long, thin stolons. Viola blanda (sweet white violet) can be differentiated from the other stemmless white violets by its bearded lateral petals and its hairy leaves and peduncles.
Internet Images: This image of Viola renifolia from A Digital Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador shows the pubescence on the lower leaf surfaces and petiole.
See also the Viola renifolia webpage from the borealforest.org website.
– written by Susan J. Meades Back to species list