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This native perennial plant is 3-6" tall. The individual leaves and flowering stems emerge directly from the rootstock. Each leaf is deeply divided into 3-5 palmate lobes, while a lobe may be further subdivided into 2-3 smaller lobes. The lobes are usually broader toward their tips than at the base of the leaf, and their tips may have 1 or 2 small teeth. A typical leaf is about 1" long and across (excluding the petiole). The petiole of each leaf is rather long and slender. The slender flowering stems are at least as long as the petioles; they are either green or purple. Each stem curves abruptly downward near the flower. The entire plant is hairless, or nearly so. The flowers have 5 petals and 5 sepals; they are ¾–1½" across. The sepals are green, while the petals are pale blue-violet to dark purple-violet. Usually the petals are the same color, although sometimes the upper two petals are dark purple-violet, while the lower three petals are pale blue-violet. Toward the throat of the flower, the lower petal is white with fine violet lines that function as nectar guides. There are no white hairs near the throat. The stamens are a conspicuous golden yellow.  The blooming period is mid- to late spring, and this plant may bloom during the fall. There may be a mild floral scent in some local ecotypes. Unlike other violets, Birdfoot Violet does not produce cleistogamous flowers. The coppery seeds can be ejected several inches from the mother plant. There is a sugary gel on the seeds that attracts ants; these ants often carry these seeds to their nests. The root system consists of a tuberous caudex with long coarse roots. Sometimes rhizomes are produced, forming vegetative offsets.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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