A sunny, roadside ditch is not the place you would normally expect to find colorful, showy violets, but that is exactly the environment that Viola pedata, the Bird’s-Foot Violet, prefers. Patches of this violet were seen recently during a roadside trash pickup on both sides of the main road leading into Rockcliff Farm. See below.
The leaves of Bird’s-Foot Violet are deeply divided into narrow lobes, reminiscent of the toes of a bird. Another common name sometimes used is Crow Foot Violet.
Viola pedata , the Bird’s-Foot Violet, differs from other violets in a number of ways:
- The plants prefer dry, sunny locations versus the moist, partially sunny to shady spots that most other violets need.
- The flowers are larger than other violets.
- Unlike other violets, they do not produce cleistogamous flowers. This is especially unusual since the largest genus of cleistogamous plants is Viola. Cleistogamous flowers are those that self pollinate, and propagate by producing specialized flowers that never open.
- They do not have the specialized hairs near the throat of the flower that other violet species have.
- They thrive in nutrient poor, relatively dry soils, while most violets prefer nutrient rich, moist soils, typical of rich hardwood forests.
Viola pedata has several natural color variations in the wild. Adapted varieties are popular in horticulture, especially in rock gardens.