Maine Wildflowers: Violets
"Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you"
If you grew up with this rhyme, you may have wondered why the violets you see are actually purple not blue. The truth is some violets are named purple violets while others are named blue violets. Their petal color ranges from blue to shades of purple, but you can't always tell them apart by the color of the petals.
In other words, some blue violets are actually purple, while some purple violets can be blue. To confuse the matter even more, GoBontany says that both purple and blue violets can also be white.
According to the Wild Seed Project there are 18 species of violets in Maine with many hybrids. This makes it difficult to determine the exact species of violets found growing in the wild.
For most of us, that means referring to violets that look blue as blue violets and those that look purple as purple violets.
Whatever you call them, these delightful little wildflowers emerge in early spring and can be found in woodlands, meadows, edges of forested areas and even on banks along the roadside. Some violets invade lawns.
Violets prefer humus-rich, well-drained soil that is moderately moist, but will grow in nearly any soil.
This violet is obviously more purple than blue, but I can't confidently identify the species to give it a proper name. Note the yellow center that differs from the white throat in the blue violets above. Purple violets tend to grow in clumps.
Delicate white violets can also be found throughout Maine, but they are not without their variations, too. This variety, called Sweet White Violet (Viola blanda), is a small woodland violet. It has an intense, sweet fragrance.
Yellow violets (Viola pensylvanica) typically grow under deciduous trees in areas where the sun reaches the ground in the spring, but they can be found in mixed forests. Look for clumps of yellow violets around the bases of trees or along the edges of wooded areas. Yellow violets often spread freely, blanketing a large area with a splash of yellow in early spring.
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