Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Long-spurred Violet - Viola rostrata   Pursh
Members of Violaceae:
Members of Viola with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Violales » Family Violaceae
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DistributionEssentially throughout the southern half of the Mountains, but inexplicably scarce in the northern Mountain counties, with only Watauga represented by specimens. Also in foothills (Piedmont) of Rutherford and Polk counties.

This is a Northern species, ranging from NH and WI south to PA and IN, and south through the Appalachians to central AL. Its scarcity in the northern half of the NC mountains makes little sense based on the overall range map as shown in BONAP.
AbundanceUncommon and somewhat local in the southern half of the Mountains, but very rare northward. Rare in upper Piedmont.
HabitatThis is a species of acidic soils, though in rich to somewhat rich sites. It grows in Acidic Cove Forests, other hardwood-conifer forests, on wooded roadbanks, and other similar sites, often near hemlocks or rhododendrons on lower slopes.
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is one of the most distinctive violets, and a favorite to mountain wildflower enthusiasts, despite it not being numerous. It is a caulescent species, with the leafy stem reaching about 6-8 inches tall. The leaves are heart-shaped with an obtuse to somewhat acute tip, about 1-1.5 inches across and long. It has striking flowers, being lavender-blue but with a very elongated spur, typically 1/2-inch long, much longer than the spur on other violets. All petals are beardless, whereas the somewhat similar V. labradorica has bearded lateral petals and a spur reaching only 1/5-inch long. Also, V. rostrata flowers tend to have a dark blue center, as opposed to medium to light blue in the other species. This species is mysteriously scarce in the northern half of the mountains. Based on specimen records, it is most frequently found near the TN border, from Madison County southwest to Graham County.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

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; this work has now been published (see above). We will follow updated editions of Weakley in recognizing them.
Other Common Name(s)Spurred Violet, Longspur Violet
State RankS3
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 northwestern GA, Apr 2015. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
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