Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Downy Yellow Violet - Viola pubescens   Aiton
Members of Violaceae:
Members of Viola with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Violales » Family Violaceae
DistributionThe identity and taxonomy of Viola pubescens and V. eriocarpa, which have each gone by several names depending on the authority/reference, was formerly muddled. Now, however, the current names used by this website are believed to be accurate. Sorrie annotated all NCU specimens and considers V. pubescens to be the more geographically restricted of the two in NC and is limited to the Mountains and foothills. The range map below shows the confirmed records; but it may be found elsewhere in the Mountains and western Piedmont. Note that V. eriocarpa is also found throughout the Mountains as well, and in many or most Piedmont and upper Coastal Plain counties.

This is an Eastern species, ranging from ME to SD, and south to DE, NC, and TN -- southward mainly just in the Appalachians.
AbundanceProbably uncommon in the Mountains, but considerable past confusion with V. eriocarpa has perhaps meant that pubescens has been somewhat overlooked. Absent downstate. The website editors suggest a State Rank of S3?.
HabitatThese two species grow in rich hardwood forests, typically in circumneutral soil. Habitats can be on slopes or in rich bottomlands. V. pubescens in NC seems limited to forested slopes, in rich soil (such as in Rich Cove Forests).
PhenologyBlooms from March to May, and fruits soon after flowering.
IdentificationThis species and V. eriocarpa must be treated together for general identification. Each has leaves emerging from the flowering stem, heart-shaped with a cordate base, and bright yellow flowers. Weakley (2018) separates the two in his key: V. pubescens -- "Stems 1 (-2), erect in flower; basal leaves 0 (-2); foliage densely pubescent throughout, leaf blades gray-green (paler abaxially); cauline leaves clustered in the uppermost 1/4 of the stem, broadly ovate to reniform, subcordate to broadly cuneate at base, broadly obtuse to rounded at apex; [montane in our region]". V. eriocarpa -- "Stems mostly 2 to several, commonly decumbent proximally or ascending in flower; basal leaves (1) 2 (-5); foliage glabrous or thinly pubescent on upper stem and petioles; leaf blades medium green (paler abaxially); cauline leaves distributed over much of the stem length, ovate, cordate at base, acute to abruptly short-acuminate at apex; [widespread in our region]". This is the more erect species, with stem leaves mostly "whorled" near the top of the stem, and with hairy leaves that are gray-green in color.
Taxonomic CommentsVery confusing, and much too confusing to describe here. Many or most references treat these two entities as one species. NatureServe considers this taxon as V. pubescens var. pubescens, and considers V. eriocarpa as V. pubescens var. scabriuscula.

General note on Viola: In 2009-10 B.A. Sorrie (website map editor) went through the whole collection at NCU, annotating all specimens against those verified by experts in the genus. The range maps in RAB (1968) have been changed accordingly. More recently, H. Ballard and students are in the process of revising all Southeastern Viola, and they will recognize additional species; we will follow updated editions of Weakley in recognizing them.
Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS4 [S3?]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACU link
USACE-empFACU link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieMontane north GA, May 2015. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC

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