1256 Viola walteriCommon Names: prostrate blue violet,Walter’s violet Family: Violaceae (violet Family)
Prostrate blue violet is a small plant even by violet standards. It gets no more than 3 in (8 cm) tall. At least it has trailing stems that can extend for several inches where they terminate in new plants. Leaves are roundish oval, 3-5 cm long, with a rounded tip. The top side of the leaves is a silvery mid-green marked with darker green veins. On the bottom, the leaves are an unexpected purple. Walter’s violet produces two different kinds of flowers. Cleistogamous flowers are flowers that never open and are self pollinated. They are borne in summer on peduncles around an inch (1-2) cm long that originate from upper leaf axils and look like tiny brownish gray footballs. The more typical chasmogamous flowers are produced in spring and are bilaterally symmetrical with 5 pale bluish purple petals, and are a little less than an inch (2 cm) across.
North Creek Nursery in Pennsylvania has introduced a selection they call ‘Silver Gem’ which may have more of a silvery cast on the upper surface of the leaves than the typical wild ones.
Viola walteri is a relatively uncommon woodland flower that ranges sporadically throughout the southeastern US from eastern Texas to northern Florida, and northward to southern Ohio and West Virginia. Look for prostrate blue violets in rich, mesic, deciduous hardwood forests. Prostrate blue violet doesn’t occur in pine forests and is rarely found on soils that aren’t alkaline. This little violet often is found in association with spring ephemerals such as May apple (Podophyllum peltatum), various trilliums (for example, Trillium underwoodii.), Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum), wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Dutchmen’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), trout lily (Erythronium americanum), lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis), hepatica (Anemone americana), and other species of violets (for example, Viola sororia.)
Light: This little woodland violet grows in shade to semi shade. Moisture: When prostrate blue violet finds itself on an ideal, calcareous and moist soil, it spreads and colonizes widely, albeit rather slowly. On drier sites it is more dispersed and the individual plants are further apart. Plant in an area with average to moist soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 9 . Propagation: Viola walteri spreads by above ground runners and below ground rhizomes as well as seeds from both cleistogamous and chasmogamous flowers. The plant is easy to propagate from the little plantlets that form on the ends of the runners.
Prostrate blue violet is a fine ground cover for naturalizing in a moist, semi-shady woodland setting. Under good conditions it will expand by runners and form an attractive groundcover network of silvery-green foliage. Use it under oaks and among some of the spring ephemerals mentioned above. This little violet makes a great container plant, too. It quickly fills the container and the runners send new plants cascading over the sides.
I had some Prostrate blue violet in an outdoor container under a big magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) in my yard here in North Florida. It spilled out and has become established in the moderately dense shade under the mag, where few other plants are able to survive.
There are more than 500 species of violets in the world. Most thrive in shade or partial shade and most are suitable for naturalizing in woodland or rock gardens. The common blue violet (Viola sororia) is (are you ready for this?) a common species in eastern North America, and often considered a weed in lawns. The garden pansy (Viola x Wittrockiana) is a complicated hybrid developed from several violet species.
Steve Christman 3/30/16