Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Violets somehow seem out of place in harsh prairie environments, but small blue violet has adapted well to the rigors of North Dakota living. Indeed, this species has evolved to inhabit a large variety of wet to dry habitats from Alaska to Quebec and south to California and Colorado.
Small blue violet is a tufted plant about three inches tall. The long-stalked leaves are overtopped by five to ten blue flowers that are less than a half inch long. Plants are perennial; horizontal roots as well as taproots are usually present. Violets are difficult to identify because hybridization is common and plants intermediate in character between the two parent species are often found. These plants are also unusual in that two kinds of flowers are produced. In addition to the open, petal-bearing flowers, other flowers are closed and have no petals. These flowers are self-fertilized, produce most of the seeds, and sometimes form below ground.
Look for small blue violet in May. Plants seem to be slightly more common, or at least more visible, on moderately or heavily grazed pastures.
The generic name Viola is the classical Latin name for these plants that are members of the family Violaceae. The specific epithet adunca means "hooked" in botanical Latin, in reference to a curved spur on the female reproductive organ. Sir James Smith, Founder of the Linnean Society of London, first described this species of violet for science in l8l7.