Hairy violet vs Sweet violet
Viola hirta vs Viola odorata
If you read my previous post about wild plants in flower in January you will notice I listed a couple of violets. Despite decades of interest in plants, I’m not a trained botanist, and I must admit that sometimes the thought of an identification key brings me out in a rash. I looked violets up in The Wild Flower Key by Francis Rose, and experienced mild panic.
As a bit of an amateur, I thought the first viola I spotted this year must be either Sweet violet (Viola odorata) or Dog violet (Viola riviniana). But I got terribly confused when I looked it up and promptly emailed a pic to my friend, the very knowledgeable Mercy at Home Plants
Mercy suggested that it was all down to the sepals, habitat and hairiness, so it was probably a Sweet violet or Hairy violet (Viola hirta) from what she could see in the photo. At this point I accepted that I probably didn’t have the skills or enough access to the plants (they’re on road verges in Seaford) to complete the ID. But then this fab worksheet arrived on twitter courtesy of @wildflower_hour, just at the right moment!
Many of us #wildflowerhour folk would love a dinky version of the amazing @nervousbotanist! How fab if we could fit her into our botanising backpacks🎒to help us with all those tricky ID’s😉 We do have the next best thing though, a brand new series of #dinkymoira top tips! 🎉🌸 pic.twitter.com/pbcZdebCWg
— wildflowerhour (@wildflower_hour) January 22, 2020
Two violets to compare
Then this morning I went for my usual health walk and spotted this little beauty in the verge.
This viola clearly has a different colour (paler with more blue), and a wider face than the previous one, despite having been eaten by something! But I realise this might just be differences between individual plants rather than species. I decided to pick a bud of each (there were good communities of both) for further identification.
I thought it might help to lay the flowers next to each other and take a photo for comparison.
Referring to the guide on twitter:
- Both of my specimens have rounded, blunt sepals, not pointy, so they must be Sweet Violet (SV) or Hairy Violet (HV).
- Sepal appendages – not much happening here that I can notice.
- Petal colour – one is rich violet purple so likely to be SV (on right in photo above) . The other is paler blue violet so likely to be HV (on left).
- Spur – Both are about the same colour as the flower. The one likely to be SV is slightly hooked up.
- Habitat – both found on roadside verges. This is a calcareous area so also suits HV.
To conclude – thanks to #wildflowerhour and Mercy @home_plant, I think the first violet I spotted was Sweet violet, Viola odorata, and the second, paler one was Hairy violet, Viola hirta.
Do let me know if there’s something I’m missing!
*01/02/20 Update – I had some additional advice on these violas and the current train of thought is they’re both Viola odorata – see my next violet post for more info.