This perennial herbaceous plant consists of a low rosette of basal
leaves up to 5" across, from which one or more flowering stalks
blades of the basal leaves are up to 3½" and 2" across, although they
are typically about one-half of this size during the blooming period.
These leaf blades are ovate, oval, or cordate-oval in shape, while
their margins are crenate. The upper surface of these leaf blades is
medium green and glabrous to sparsely pubescent, while the lower
surface is pale green and
either glabrous, pubescent along the central vein, or pubescent
generally. The petioles are less than one-third of the length of the
leaf blades; they are light green to reddish green and
glabrous to pubescent (hairs are especially likely to occur toward the
bases of the petioles). The ascending pedicels of the flowers are 3-5"
long, light green to reddish green, terete, and glabrous (less often
pubescent). Toward the middle of each pedicel, there is a pair of
tiny leafy bracts that are lanceolate in shape. The apices of the
pedicels curve downward, where the flowers occur.
Each flower is about ½"
across, consisting of 5 white spreading petals, 5 light green sepals,
and the inconspicuous reproductive organs. The lowest petal of each
flower has several purple veins and it is beardless (lacking
a patch of hairs) at its base. Toward the back of the flower, this
petal tapers into a short stout nectar-spur. The two lower lateral
petals have either reduced purple veins or they are veinless; their
bases are either beardless or slightly bearded. The upper
lateral petals lack purple veins and they are always beardless. The
sepals are lanceolate and glabrous; the basal lobes of the sepals are
short and rounded. The blooming period of these flowers occurs from
mid-spring to early summer, lasting about 3-4 weeks. In addition to the
showy flowers that have been described, there are also inconspicuous
cleistogamous flowers that are self-fertile; they are produced shortly
afterwards. The fertilized showy flowers and cleistogamous flowers are
replaced by green seed capsules that become up to ½" long at maturity;
they are ovoid-oblongoid in shape and glabrous. At maturity, these
capsules divide into 3 parts, flinging their seeds in the process. The
small seeds are 1.0–1.5 mm. long and globoid to ovoid in shape. The
root system consists of a slender crown with fibrous roots and
stolon-like rhizomes; clonal offsets are produced from the rhizomes,
causing small colonies of plants to develop.
The preference is partial sun, moist
conditions, and sandy soil.
Primrose-leaved Violet occurs in only 3
counties of NE
Illinois, where it is rare and native (see Distribution
state-listed as 'endangered.' Outside of Illinois, this violet occurs
primarily in sandy areas along the Atlantic coastal plain and Gulf of
Mexico region. There is also a variety of this violet that occurs in
the Pacific northwest. Habitats include moist sand prairies, sandy
shrub prairies, moist sandy savannas, openings in moist sandy
woodlands, and sandy paths through wooded areas. Primrose-leaved Violet
is found in high quality natural areas, especially where there have
been wildfires that reduced overhead woody vegetation. It also adapts
grassy paths in these areas if they are not mowed too often or too low.
The flowers of Primrose-leaved Violet
attract the same, or similar, insect pollinators as other violets with
white flowers. Such insects include honeybees, bumblebees, long-horned
bees (Synhalonia spp.
mason bees (Osmia spp.
Andrenid bee (Andrena
), the Giant Bee Fly (Bombylius major
small- to medium-sized butterflies, and skippers (Robertson, 1929).
Bees are the most important pollinators. Sometimes ants enter the
flowers of violets to feed on nectar, but they are not effective
pollinators. Other insects feed on the foliage and other parts of
violets. These insect feeders include the caterpillars of several
Fritillary butterflies (Boloria
), larvae of the
Violet Sawfly (Ametastega
), the Violet Aphid (Neotoxoptera
), larvae of the Violet Fruit Midge (Dasineura semenivora
Violet Gall Midge (Prodiplosis
), and a thrips (Odontothrips
); see Bouseman & Sternburg (2001),
Hottes & Frison (1931), Felt (1917), Aldrich &
Osten-Sacken (1905), and Stannard (1968). The seeds of violets are
eaten to some extent by such birds as the Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey,
Bobwhite Quail, Mourning Dove, and Slate-colored Junco; the
White-footed Mouse and Woodland Vole also eat the seeds. The Cottontail
Rabbit and White-tailed Deer feed on the foliage of violets to a minor
extent, as does the Eastern Chipmunk and Wood Turtle (Clemmys
); see Martin et al. (1951/1961), Augustine
& Svendsen (1978), and Ernst et al. (1994).
Grassy paths through moist sandy savannas and
woodlands at the Iroquois County Conservation Area in Illinois.
This is one of the smaller violets with dainty flowers and foliage. It
remains inconspicuous, except when it blooms. Primrose-leaved Violet (Viola primulifolia
probably a naturally occurring hybrid of two other native violets,
Lance-leaved Violet (Viola
) and Small White Violet (Viola macloskeyi
). As a result, some authorities refer to
Primrose-leaved Violet as a hybrid, or Viola × primulifolia
violet can be distinguished from other violets (Viola spp.
) by its
white flowers and the shape of its leaves. These leaves are more broad
than those of Lance-leaved Violet, but they are less orbicular in shape
than those of Small White Violet. The Sand Violet (Viola fimbriatula
has leaves that are similar in shape to those of Primrose-leaved
Violet, but the foliage of Sand Violet is usually more pubescent and
flowers are blue-violet. Across its range, the Primrose-leaved Violet
is somewhat variable in the pubescence of its foliage. In the northern
parts of its range (including Illinois), the foliage of this violet is
mostly glabrous, but in the southern parts of its range (e.g., in SE
United States), its foliage is more pubescent.