Violaceae – Violets and Pansies

Sweet Violet (Viola odorata) in flower

Pansies and Violets are well known to brighten up any garden throughout spring, and are a common favourite due to their bright and varied colours. Violets even have their place in history as Josephine was fabled to have thrown a posey of sweet violets (Viola odorata) to Napoleon when they first met. There is also a legend that you can only smell a violet once. This has some truth to it as violets contain a chemical – ionine – which is known to deaden smell receptors in the nose for periods of time (http://www.plantlife.org.uk/wild_plants/plant_species/sweet_violet).

In the UK there are 15 species of Viola and various sub-species and hybrids(Stace 2010). Of these, 5 species have been previously found on campus (Le Grice & Jury 2007). Not all seem to be permanent residents as some have been seen growing on loose soil piles such as the field pansy and wild pansy. The Sweet Violet, Common Dog Violet and the Early Dog

Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) in flower

Violet are more permanent members of the campus flora and for those prepared to seek them out (for none are common here), they can be found flowering each year. Violets have zygomorphic flowers with 5 free petals, 4 of them arranged in a fan shape with 2 petals on each side and with the 5th petal facing downwards. The flowering period is short in early spring, April – June with a couple of species lasting until September.

More on Violets at Whiteknights Biodiversity:

http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/whiteknightsbiodiversity/2012/01/21/violaceae-the-violet-family/

http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/whiteknightsbiodiversity/2013/01/10/sweet-violet/

References:

Le Grice, D. & Jury, S.L. 2011. The Flora of Whiteknights Park. Unpublished BSc Dissertation, University of Reading.

Stace, C (2010). New Flora of the British Isles . Cambride: Cambridge University Press.

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