Viola pedata L.

Bird's Foot Violet


CC = 5
CW = 5
MOC = 75

© SRTurner

Family - Violaceae

Habit - Perennial forb to 20 cm tall, with fibrous roots and a short, erect rhizome 4-8 mm thick.

Stems - Aerial stems absent.

Leaves - All basal, long-petiolate, the petiole to 5 cm, with single adaxial groove, glabrous or minutely and inconspicuously hairy. Stipules conspicuous, membranous, fused to the petiole for about 2/3 of their length, lanceolate, the margins narrowly lobed or toothed, glandular-hairy. Leaf blades to 5.0 cm long, those of the outer leaves smaller, slightly longer than wide to wider than long, ovate to kidney-shaped, deeply and ternately dissected into uniformly slender, linear to oblanceolate segments 1-3 mm wide, the central segment typically undivided or with a few irregular teeth, the lateral segments ternately lobed again, the ultimate segments mostly rounded to broadly or bluntly pointed at the tips, entire or irregularly few-toothed (usually also minutely hairy) along the margins, the surfaces usually minutely hairy.

Viola_pedata_basals.jpg Basal leaf disposition.

© SRTurner

Viola_pedata_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Viola_pedata_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Viola_pedata_leaves.jpg Pressed leaves.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Single pedunculate flowers from caudex. Flower stalks not or only slightly overtopping the leaves. Peduncles to 10 cm long, glabrous, often purplish, with pair of linear bracts at or below the middle. Bracts to 1.3 cm long, 1 mm broad.

Viola_pedata_corollas.jpg Corollas.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Sepals 9-13 mm long, lanceolate, narrowly angled to a sharply pointed tip, the margins sometimes minutely hairy, the basal auricles well-developed. Corollas 12-22 mm long, appearing strongly frontally flattened, the petals longer than the sepals, all lavender, pale blue, or bluish purple (with a white throat and sometimes greenish veins), or the upper pair conspicuously darker purple to purplish black, all glabrous (beardless) on the upper surface, the spur conspicuous, well-exserted beyond the sepal auricles, stout and often somewhat hemispheric in shape, often somewhat purplish-tinged. Stamens exserted beyond the corolla throat, the orange tips noticeable without dissection of the flower. Style glabrous, 2mm long, club-shaped with an oblique concave area near the tip. Cleistogamous flowers not produced.

Viola_pedata_calyx.jpg Calyx and spurred petal.

© DETenaglia

Viola_pedata_flower.jpg Typical flower color.

© DETenaglia

Viola_pedata_flower3.jpg Color variation.

© SRTurner

Viola_pedata_flower1.jpg Color variation.

© DETenaglia

Viola_pedata_flower2.jpg Color variation.

© DETenaglia

Viola_pedata_flower4.jpg Color variation.

© SRTurner

Viola_pedata_white_flower.jpg Color variation.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Capsules 8-13 mm long, narrowly ellipsoid to ellipsoid, green, drying to tan or olive-colored, the surface glabrous. Seeds numerous, 1.5-1.7 mm long, tan.

Flowering - April - June and sometimes again in late fall.

Habitat - Glades, upland prairies, savannas, openings of rocky or dry upland forests, tops of bluffs, streambanks, pastures, fields, roadsides.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - V. pedatifida.

Other info. - This striking and easily identifiable species is common across most of Missouri except for the northwestern corner of the state. It ranges throughout most of the eastern half of the continental U.S. and also into Canada. The flowers are large relative to other violets, and the leaves are finely divided and reminiscent of a bird's foot.

The flower color in this species is variable but can be roughly divided into two forms. The type having upper and lower petals nearly the same color has been variously called f. rosea A.L. Sanders or var. lineariloba DC, whereas the type with upper petals of a strikingly deeper shade, which was the first form to be named, is termed var. pedata. These two variants are approximately equally common in Missouri and are sometimes found growing in close proximity to each other. The less common white variant has been called f. alba (Thurb.) Britton. Examples of these color variations are shown in the images above.

This species is a characteristic occupant of upland forest openings having dry, cherty soils. Wild plants do not transplant well and should not be dug; however, seed-grown plants are available at nurseries specializing in native plants and would make a beautiful additions to rock gardens.

Photographs taken somewhere in North Carolina, 4-27-03, and in the Piney Creek Wilderness, Mark Twain National Forest, Barry County, MO., 4-9-01 and 4-5-04 (DETenaglia); also at Weldon Spring Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 4-13-2011, and Little Lost Creek Conservation Area, Warren County, MO, 3-30-2012, 4-25-2014, 4-8-2020, and 4-14-2021 (SRTurner).