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Plant Description


Viola selkirkii Pursh ex Goldie

En: Selkirk's violet, great spurred violet
Fr: violette de Selkirk

Violaceae (Violet Family)

Click on thumbnail to see larger image.
Viola selkirkiihab Viola selkirkiiflpl Viola selkirkiilvs Viola selkirkiiflw Viola selkirkiifrt


General: A low, perennial forb, stemless; plants spreading by long, slender rhizomes.

Leaves: Basal, simple, palmately-veined, petiolate. Leaf blade broadly cordate, thin-textured (membranceous), 1.5–3 cm long at time of flowering, becoming larger; lower surface smooth (glabrous); upper surface bearing fine hairs; the cordate base has a deep, narrow sinus, the basal lobes curve inward toward the petiole, so the inner margins of the basal lobes touch or overlap; apices pointed (acute) to blunt (obtuse); margins with rounded teeth (crenate).

Flowers: Bisexual; petaliferous flowers about 2 cm wide; solitary on a slender, glabrous, purple-tinged flower stalk (peduncle). Sepals 5, purple-tinged, narrowly lanceolate, with pointed (acuminate to acute) apices, margins entire; petals 5, pale violet, often white at the centre, petals all beardless; the lower petal marked with dark purple veins, ending in a prominent spur, 5–7 mm long. Fertile cleistogamous flowers are produced on slender, erect peduncles after the petaliferous flowers are finished blooming. Petaliferous flowers bloom in early May.

Fruit: An ellipsoid to nearly globose, 3-valved capsule, glabrous, mostly green, but marked with purple spots, 4–6 mm long. Seeds are buff, 1.5–1.9 mm long. Fruits mature in summer.

Habitat and Range: Cool, rich, shady woods and thickets, rocky calcareous slopes and moist ravines; usually in areas with basic soils or over limestone bedrock. Viola selkirkii is a circumboreal species that occurs discontinuously from Newfoundland to British Columbia and in northern Eurasia; it is found across the forested regions of northern Ontario.

Similar Species: In addition to Selkirk's violet, there are 3 other stemless blue violets in northern Ontario, outside of arctic areas. Viola nephrophylla (northern bog violet) has glabrous leaves with a wide sinus between lobes and glabrous peduncles, while Viola sororia (woolly blue violet) can be recognized by its hairy stems and peduncles, and its ciliate sepals; both of these species have bearded petals with slender hairs and a short, saccate spur. Viola cucullata (marsh blue violet) has glabrous leaves and lateral petals that are bearded with club-shaped (clavate) hairs.

Internet Images: The Viola selkirkii webpage from the Connecticut Botanical Society.

written by Susan J. Meades

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