"The dearest violet of all," observes Neltje Blanchan. Surely a more charming and appropriate comment on the Sweet White Violet would be difficult to imagine, for the very modesty and nature of this dainty little queen of Violets defies the effort. If it is true that the Violets are steeped in the bluest blood of royalty, then it must be true also that this particular Violet is mistress of them all. Its exclusive air of refinement, its exquisite race, its delicate fragrance, even its robe of ermine petals, all tend to betray its dignity. In low, damp, open woods, or wet meadows and swamps, where few flowers are wont to dwell, this tiny reflection of love and simplicity waits, with becoming stateliness, to greet us during April and May. It is one of the smallest, if not the smallest of the Violets, and is also one of the earliest to be found in blossom. The uniformly sweet-scented flower has five white petals. The upper pair are often long, narrow and decidedly recurved. It is usually beardless and has a short spur. The lower petals are veined or hair-lined with purple. The matured flower measures from one-quarter to one-half inch broad, and is borne singly on short, slender stems that really seem a little stout for so small a blossom. Though often found growing five or six inches high, the plant averages nearer two inches. The thin textured, smooth surfaced, yellow-green leaves are round heart-shaped with finely toothed margins. The plant is stemless, that is, it has no main stalk, and the leaf and flower stems spring directly from a very slender rootstock. As the season advances, the plant sends out slender stolens or runners bearing a few petal-less flowers that never open. It is found from Newfoundland and New Brunswick to Georgia and Louisiana, and in California.
SWEET WHITE VIOLET. Viola blanda.
The Lance-leaved Violet, V. lanceolata, is a more slender and somewhat taller species, having striking long, narrow, lance-shaped leaves which gradually taper into a long, slender stem, or petiole, and which is a distinct and ready means of identification. The margins are finely toothed or scalloped, the texture is thin, and the colour yellowish green. The white-petaled flowers are slightly fragrant, and if anything, they are a trifle larger than the preceding species, and like those, their lower petals are marked with purple lines. They are usually beardless and have a short spur. Late in summer they send out many stolens that take root at short intervals and bear apetalous flowers which never open, and in fact, are seldom observed because they are inconspicuous and are obscured by the leaves. This species is found in wet places, often near the Sweet White Violet, along streams and in wet woods, from Nova Scotia to Minnesota, south to Florida and Texas, during April, May, and June.
The Primrose-leaved Violet, V. primulifolia, is another white-flowered species having many of the characteristics of the preceding. The flowers are borne on slightly longer stems, and all of the petals are marked with purple lines. It is readily identified by its spoon-shaped leaves, the edges of which are slightly scalloped, and the veins on the under side being more or less hairy. It is found in open, moist soil from New Brunswick to Florida and Louisiana, from April to June.