Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Common Blue Violet - Viola sororia   Willdenow
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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DistributionThroughout the state, though scarce in the far eastern counties, with no records yet for Dare, Hyde, and Tyrrell counties, and a few north of Albemarle Sound. It is likely that the species is comprised of more than one species, even though several species have been dumped into it in recent decades. See V. communis as an example of a recently split-off species.

This is an extremely widespread species of the eastern half of the continent, found in nearly every county in the US west to the Great Plains.
AbundanceVery common everywhere except near the coast, where rare in a few far eastern counties. This is, by far, the most frequently seen violet in the state and in the US.
HabitatThis is a species of many habitats, some quite weedy. It is most prevalent in rich to moist hardwoods on slopes and in bottomland forests. It does range into somewhat dry forests. It also is a familiar weed of lawns, roadsides, and clearings, especially in rich to damp soil.
PhenologyBlooms from February to May, and fruits soon after flowering.
IdentificationThis is the most familiar violet, having a rich violet to violet-blue flower, each on a naked stalk, with all leaves basal (i.e., an acaulescent species). The leaves are heart-shaped with a cordate base, generally as wide as long, with an acute tip, and somewhat pubescent to nearly glabrous on both surfaces though not densely hairy as in a few species. The lateral petals are bearded, but the lower petal is usually not bearded. A few other species are similar; V. affinis has long tapered leaves and a bearded lower petal. V. villosa has strongly hairy, evergreen leaves that are usually flat to the ground. Other species have leaves longer than wide, such as those in the V. sagittata complex. Basically, a violet with basal leaves only, a violet-blue flower, and heart-shaped and acute-tipped leaves -- as wide as long -- is this species until otherwise ruled out. See Weakley (2020) for ID of the recently split V. communis.
Taxonomic CommentsMost of this species was formerly named as V. papilionacea; essentially the remainder are the former V. palmata var. sororia. Weakley (2022) lists three varieties, but besides the nominate one the other two are undescribed ones. Thus, the website editors choose not to add these to the site owing to the highly unsettled taxonomy of this genus.

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)Confederate Violet, Woolly Violet, Meadow Violet
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B.A. SorrieFloodplain of Lane's Creek, late March 2010. UnionPhoto_natural
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