Violets are either acaulescent (having no stem) with leaves and peduncles arising from the rhizomes or caulescent (having a stem) bearing flowers and leaves on the same stem. There are three species of violets with leafy stems native to RI; Viola canadensis var. canadensis, Viola labradorica and Viola pubescens. All other native violets in RI are stemless.
Violets produce two kind of flowers; cleistogamous (having flowers without petals which do not open) and chasmogamous (having flowers with petals). Chasmogamous flowers bloom in the spring and cleistogamous flowers in the summer.
Hybrids among violets are very common. This can make identification problematic.
There are 14 species of violets native to RI. There are also several species of violets that are not native, but have naturalized. This article deals only with native violets.
Unless otherwise specified, photo credits: Francis Underwood.
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the Sweet White Violet
often has flowers borne on red stems.
It can be found in rich woods. Uncommon.
Viola canadensis var. canadensis,
Canadian White Violet,
is found in rich woods. State Historical (1920).
Blue Marsh Violet,
is common in wet areas. It also occurs as a
white-flowered form as seen here in
North Smithfield, RI. Common.
Viola labradorica (V.conspersa),
American Dog Violet,
usually has light blue flowers, however white-flowered forms do occur. This white-flowered form (V. conspersa forma masonii) at right, was found in Charlestown, RI.
Dog Violet grows in rich moist woods. Common.
Photo credit for photo on right:
Jeff McMillian @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
is often found in wet habitats.
It has white flowers. Common.
Viola macloskeyi ssp. pallens,
Northern White Violet,
grows in wet, swampy areas. Common.
Photo credit: William R. Hewlett © California Academy of Sciences
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Northern Bog Violet,
grows in rich wet areas. It has blue flowers. Rare.
Viola palmata var. palmata,
Palmate-leaved Violet or Blue Wood Violet,
is rare in RI. It grows in rich woods. Haines in Botanical Notes #8, May 23, 2002 says “V. palmata is a heterophyllous species (the earlyand late season leaves unlobed, the mid-season leaves lobed)”.* (See Viola subsinuata below). State-threatened.
grows in dry, sandy areas. Common.
blooms white and grows in moist areas. Rare.
Viola pubescens var. pubescens,
Yellow Forest Violet
is rare in RI. It can be found in rich woods.
Stemless Yellow Violet or Yellow Round-leaved Violet
is very rare in RI. It grows in rich, moist woods.
State-threatened. This photo was taken from a
population in Kent County on April 20, 2004.
Viola sagittaria var. ovata,
Northern Downy Violet or Ovate-leaved Violet,
grows in dry, open areas. Common. This photo at right
was taken on ledge in Cumberland, RI on May 27, 2005.
Common Blue Violet,
is found in woods and fields. Common.
This is the Rhode Island State Flower.
Early Blue Violet,
is rare in RI. It grows in rich woods. Haines says “V. subsinuata is a homophyllous plant with all leaves lobed into 5-16, often narrow, segments” (Botanical Notes #8, May 23, 2002). State Endangered.