Scape. - Slender, one-flowered. Leaves. - Heart-shaped, all from the root. Flowers. - Varying from a pale blue to deep purple, borne singly on a scape. Calyx. - Of five sepals extended into ears at the base. Corolla. - Of five somewhat unequal petals, the lower one spurred at the base. Stamens. - Short and broad, somewhat united around the pistil. Pistil. - One with a club-shaped style and bent stigma.
Perhaps this is the best-beloved as well as the best-known of the early wild flowers. Whose heart has not been gladdened at one time or another by a glimpse of some fresh green nook in early May where purple violets lurk, With all the lovely children of the shade ?
It seems as if no other flower were so suggestive of the dawning year, so associated with the days when life was full of promise. Although I believe that more than a hundred species of violets have been recorded, only about thirty are found in our country; of these perhaps twenty are native to the Northeastern States. Unfortunately we have no strongly sweet-scented species, none sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes Or Cytherea's breath, as Shakespeare found the English blossom. Prophets and warriors as well as poets have favored the violet; Mahomet preferred it to all other flowers, and it was chosen by the Bonapartes as their emblem.
Perhaps its frequent mention by ancient writers is explained by the discovery that the name was one applied somewhat indiscriminately to sweet-scented blossoms.
The bird-foot violet, V. pedata, unlike other members of the family, has leaves which are divided into linear lobes. Its flower is peculiarly lovely, being large and velvety. The variety, V. bicolor, is especially striking and pansy-like, its two upper petals being of a deeper hue than the others. It is found in the neighborhood of Washington in abundance, and on the shaly soil of New Jersey.
An interesting feature of many of these plants is their cleis-togamous flowers. These are small and inconspicuous blossoms, which never open (thus guarding their pollen against all depredations), but which are self-fertilized, ripening their seeds in the dark. They are usually found near or beneath the ground, and are often taken for immature buds.