Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Four Violets

Hairy Violet, Viola hirta.  High Elms Country Park, 13 March 2014.
Hairy Violet, Viola hirta.  High Elms Country Park, 13 March 2014.
Well, I was going to post the four violets that can be found in this area just now, but they look so similar to each other to the non-botanical eye that I will restrict myself to two.

The flowers are inconspicuous unless there are several together, but they abound at the moment and are not hard to find.  The Common Dog-violet and Early Dog-violet, not shown here, grow by woods and hedges and on grassy banks and verges.  The Hairy Violet, shown above, likes chalky grassland.  This one was on one of the orchid banks at High Elms.  You can see the furry appearance of the leaf stems and the undersides of the leaves.

Sweet Violet, Viola odorata.  Fairlawne Estate, Shipbourne, 15 March 2014.
Sweet Violet, Viola odorata.  Fairlawne Estate, Shipbourne, 15 March 2014.
The Sweet Violet is the only one to have a scent, and also the only one to have a white variety.  These were in a large estate on a rolling lawn and might therefore have been planted and allowed to spread, but they can also be found naturally in the wild.  Like the others, it is widespread, usually in its bluish form, and in fact I found one on my own road this afternoon.

Telling these four violets apart is tricky.  There are even scentless forms of the Sweet Violet, so you can't just rule it out with a sniff.  You have to compare a whole cluster of attributes: the shape of the sepals, the size of the little appendages at the back of the sepals, the shape and colour of the spur at the back of the flower, and a couple of other things too.  Sometimes, though, it's obvious.  White, sweet-scented flowers - and those large leaves - can only belong to one of the four species.

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