Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Smooth Yellow Violet + - Viola eriocarpa   Schweinitz
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Section 6 » Family Violaceae
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AuthorSchweinitz
DistributionThe taxonomy of Viola eriocarpa and V. pubescens, which have each gone by several names depending on the authority/reference, used to be muddled. Now, however, the current names used by this website are considered to be accurate. Weakley (2018) considers V. pubescens to be the more geographically restricted of the two in NC and is limited mainly to the mountains and foothills. He considers V. eriocarpa to be widespread across the Mountains and Piedmont, and into the western edge of the Coastal Plain (floodplain of Cape Fear River south to Bladen County). As can be seen from the map, the range into the Coastal Plain extends only along a few brownwater rivers (Roanoke and Cape Fear).

This is a mostly Northern and Midwestern species, ranging from Canada south to central NC, central AL, and northeastern TX.
AbundanceFairly common to common in the Mountains. In the Piedmont, most numerous in the eastern half, where infrequent to locally common. Infrequent in the western half of the Piedmont, and along the upper parts of the Roanoke and Cape Fear rivers in the Coastal Plain.
HabitatThis species favors circumneutral, quite rich soil. It grows in Rich Cove Forests, Basic Mesic Forests, and rich brownwater bottomland forests. It rarely is found in drier or more mesic forests.
See also Habitat Account for Rich Wet-Mesic Hardwood Forests
PhenologyBlooms from March to May, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis species and V. pubescens 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. 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]". 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 is a somewhat sprawling or leaning species, with stem leaves scattered along the stem, and with medium green and rather smooth leaves. It is the primary one of the pair found downstate, where it is a good indicator of Basic Mesic Forest natural community.
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 more species than are listed on this website, some of which are treated in Weakley (2020).
Other Common Name(s)None
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