Acaulescent. Rootstocks short and thick. Leaves: long-petioled, cordate, with a broad sinus, the early ones reniform, the latter ones acute or acuminate, crenately toothed. Flowers: large; petals villous at base; spur saccate.
This large Early Violet is really of a true violet colour; it grows most luxuriantly in very moist ground, usually on the low banks of streams or in the marshes, for it is there that "The purple violets lurk, With all the lovely children of the shade."
Poets have ever loved and praised the Violet. The Bard of Avon sang of how " Violets blue, And lady-smocks all silver white, And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue Do paint the meadows with delight"; later causing Oberon to relate: "I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows, Where ox-lips and the nodding violet grows."
Milton told of the " Violet embroidered vale "; and Scott claimed that " The violet in her greenwood bower,
Where birchen boughs with hazel mingle, May boast herself the fairest flower In forest glade or copsewood dingle."
Long before Shakespeare's day, however, the ancient Arabians sang its praise. It was the favourite flower of Mahomet, just as it was that of Napoleon in modern times, and has since become the emblem of the Bonapartists, who still wear it as a token of their devotion to a lost cause, remembering, perhaps, Shakespeare's proverb that "Violet is for faithfulness."
No legitimist in France will ever wear these flowers.
The Early Violet has five large petals that are hairy at the base, the lower one being marked with a tiny, dark-veined yellowish-white patch on its face, and protruding at the back into a small rounded spur. The leaves are broad and conspicuously veined, many of them being folded inwards when young.
Viola adunca, or Dog Violet, is a smaller dark purple or white species which grows on dry ground and sends out runners that bear many blossoms. The low stems branch out from the base, the leaves are ovate and somewhat cordate, and the spur is rather slender and curved.
Viola Selkirkii, or Selkirk's Violet, has dark green orbicular, deeply cordate, crenate leaves, whose upper surface is sparingly beset with short hairs near the margin. The pale violet flowers have an obtuse spur and are beardless.
Viola palnstris, or Marsh Violet, has leaf and flower stalks arising from a very slender creeping rootstock. The flower stalks are longer than the leaf stalks. The leaves are thin cordate, broadly ovate and crenulate, the petals are pale lilac streaked with darker veins or sometimes nearly white, the flower is slightly bearded, the spur is short and the stigma not bearded but somewhat beaked. This is not a common species.