Viola Pedata, Linnaeus

Viola Pedata

Viola Pedata

Viola Pedata Natural Order Violaceae Bird s Foot V 10055

Nearly smooth; rootstock short and very thick, erect, not scaly; leaves all three to five divided, or the earliest only parted, the lateral divisions two to three parted, all linear or narrowly spatulate, sometimes two to three toothed or cut at the apex; petals beardless; stigma nearly beakless; flowers large, one inch broad, pale or deep lilac-purple, or blue. (Gray's Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States. See also Wood's Class-Book of Botany, and Chapman's Flora of the Southern United States.)

Viola Pedata Natural Order Violaceae Bird s Foot V 10057

WRITERS have given various accounts of the derivation of the word Viola, as applied botanically to the Violets, but most of them rest contented with the simple statement that it is the original Latin name, to which some add, "of uncertain etymology." One of the best modern writers on the Latin language, Ainsworth, considers it, however, to be derived from the Greek. In that language the Violet is called ion, and this is a derivative from ienai, which signifies "to go." It has been suggested, therefore, that the name was given to our plant from its being a companion to the traveller going through woods and along paths, and in this connection the Latin Viola comes to us, via being a path or way. This has plausibility to recommend it, and is no worse an explanation than most of those which are offered as solutions of many similar puzzles. It is, at least, pleasant to associate the Violet with wayside travel, for few persons, probably, look back on their childhood, and remember their early rambles along rural paths, without giving the Violet a prominent place in these happy recollections. Whittier truly says: "Not wholly can the heart unlearn The lesson of its better hours; Nor yet has Time's dull footstep worn To common dust that path of flowers."

Our present species, Viola pcdata, or Bird's-Foot Violet, though we may so pleasantly recall it in the history of our earlier years, is not the earliest to flower when springtime comes. Some few species are ready with their delicate charms as early as the end of March, or by the first week in April, but the "little birdie's foot," as the children pettingly call it, is seldom seen before May. It makes up for its sluggishness, however, by its superior attractions when it does come, for it is the largest and the showiest of all our native species. Not only is it beautiful in its flowers, but its delicately cut and divided leaves give it an elegance which not one of our other species possesses. The Bird's-Foot Violet, also, has a sort of perception of our love of variety, and therefore gives us many forms both of flowers and foliage. This fact is singular enough when we consider it in connection with the statement of a philosophic writer on English Violets that, while the pansy, which belongs to the Violet family {Viola tricolor), has "bent itself completely to our will, the Violet proper stubbornly refuses to give us any change, and the Violet of the present time is the old Violet of our fathers still." To carry the fancy further, we might say that, hopeless of rivalling the pansy in the affections of the cultivator, the English Violet wisely kept to its own, while our American species, there being no native pansy to compete with it, is trying what it may do to improve. It is remarkable, also, that one of the forms which the Viola pedata takes on is not unlike the pansy, as we see by the example given in our plate. This form is by no means uncommon, if we may judge by recent communications in the "Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club," of New York, and the writer of this has often had it sent to him as a curious variety by friends in many of the Atlantic United States. In all cases the two upper petals were those that had changed to the beautiful crimson-purple of the pansy; and the reason why, when it does change, it should change in this uniform way, is worthy of the attention of the energetic student. There are similar instances in other plants. Pure white varieties are also very common in some districts, as noted by Prof. Thurber and Dr. I. H. Hale, in the serial from which we have just quoted. In the district from which our illustration was taken, Eastern Pennsylvania, the chief variations are from whitish to purple, and there are many shades between these. But the tendency to vary, far from being confined to the color alone, also manifests itself very markedly in the form of the petals. Some are very broad, giving the flower a round-faced, jolly appearance, while some are mere narrow straps, embodying the thoughtful and careworn expression. There seems to be but little doubt that, in the hands of some enterprising improver, the Bird's-Foot Violet would give highly interesting results. It is remarkable that the English florists, with their known Watchfulness, have done nothing in a field so inviting, for the plant has been in their hands since 1759, in which year it was enumerated by Philip Miller as being in the Apothecaries' Garden, at Chelsea, near London, to which it was probably sent by John Bartram, from Philadelphia, with whom Miller commenced exchanging plants in 1755. But perhaps the European florists are so well satisfied with the pansy, that the Bird's-Foot Violet offers no temptation to them. It bears cultivation very well in our gardens, though very seldom seen in the collections of the lovers'of hardy border flowers.

Independently of its interest to the mere spectator in the great field of beauty, our plant has also much for those who like to look more closely into the processes of nature. The root, when the plant is taken up, has a bitten-off appearance, or, as botanists say, it is praemorse. Properly speaking, however, this prasmorse "root" is nothing but an underground stem, - a little trunk, - and the real roots, thread-like, proceed from it. This stem makes a new addition to its crown every year, and some of the lower portion dies away, just as we see it in the corm of a gladiolus or similar bulb, and this leaves the bottom of the little stem flat, or as if it were bitten off. Indeed, there is actually little essential difference, beyond the shape, between a bulb, a corm, and such a structure as this underground violet-stem. Again, the flower is worthy of close study from its peculiar stigma, which is large, compressed at the sides, and perforated, and very unlike that of most Violets. It is, furthermore, very interesting to study this species in connection with the question of clcistogamous flowers, which, as the reader knows, are flowers without petals, fertilized in the bud before the calyx opens, and which follow, during the summer, the complete flowers with petals which cease to appear after June. Nuttall and the earlier botanists believed that all the North American species of Violets produced these apetalous, "secretly fertilized " flowers, but the writer of this has never found them on this species, though he has on most of the others. It is quite likely they may appear in some localities. Large numbers of the flowers give no seeds, but on this and many other points additional observations are much needed.

Most Violets are fond of high elevations, but in the temperate regions some are quite at home when near the level of the sea. Our Bird's-Foot Violet is found in low yet dryish situations, and seems rather to like to get up the hillsides. Mr. Shriver tells us in the "Botanical Gazette," that at Wytheville, in Virginia, it is found in the Alleghanies a half-mile high. Its geographical range commences in Canada and goes down to Florida along the seaboard States, although Dr. Chapman intimates that it has no great love for the warmer parts of the South, but is found chiefly in the upper districts. It extends west to Wisconsin, but is not found in great abundance till it approaches the southern boundaries of the State. In Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana it is frequently met with.

Explanation Of The Plate

1. Part of a root-stock, with leaves and flowers.

2. Bouquet of varieties.