Viola lanceolata

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Viola lanceolata
Viola lanceolata IWF.jpg
Photo by John Hilty hosted at
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicots
Order: Violales
Family: Violaceae
Genus: Viola
Species: V. lanceolata
Binomial name
Viola lanceolata
Natural range of Viola lanceolata from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common Names: lanceleaf violet; narrow-leaved violet; strap-leaved violet;[1] bog white violet[2]

Taxonomic Notes

Varieties: V. lanceolata Linnaeus var. vittata (Greene) Weatherby & Griscom.[3]


Viola lanceolata is a dioecious perennial forb/herb.[2] It is stemless and produces white flowers. Leaves are narrow, lanceolate, glabrous and held erect. V. lanceolata also produces long slender stolons, allowing established plants to vegetatively spread. The number of flowers produced are exponentially correlated with the number of leaves the plant has. In Massachusetts, seed capsules contained 44.1 seeds on average; these ranged from 16-68 seeds.[4] This species also hybridizes with other species of Viola including V. macloskeyi ssp. pallens.[5]


This species occurs from New Brunswick, westward to Minnesota, and southward to Florida and eastern Texas.[1] There have also been reports along the Pacific coast in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California.[2]



V. lanceolata is found in bogs, seepage slopes, pitcher plant seepage bogs, stream heads and their margins, small swamp forests, depression ponds, interdune swales and ponds, flatwoods, savannas, river banks, and other wet habitats.[1][6] It is also found in disturbed areas including roadside depressions, home lawns, and campsites.[6]

This species also prefers more shady habitats than V. fimbriatula and was not observed in open areas in a Massachusetts study.[4] It also prefers wet sandy soils.[7] Despite this species close proximity to water, flooding produces a reduction in the number of germinations per core.[8] In Nova Scotia, Canada, this species occurs from the water line to ~0.5 m above it.[9][10]

Associated species: Betula pumila, Clethra alnifolia, Vaccinium spp., Acer rubrum, Symplocarpus foetidus, Carex stricta, Theylpteris palustris, and Drosera sp..[11][12]

Viola lanceolata is an indicator species for the Peninsula Savannas community type as described in Carr et al. (2010).[13]


In the southeastern and mid-Atlantic United States, flowering occurs from February through May.[1] On the Florida panhandle, flowering has been observed from November through May, peaking in March and April.[14] Its characteristic chasmogamous flowers are produced from June to September and die with the first frost in Massachusetts. This species will overwinter as stolons or short underground stems until a new growth period is triggered by warming temperatures. Growth occurs from April to late August or September, peaking in late August.[4]

Seed bank and germination

At an Ontario lake, the frequency of V. lanceolata was 97 at 0.2-0.8 m below the maximum water level and 100 and 13 at 0.8-1.3 m and 1.3-1.5 m, respectively. The mean number of collected seeds that germinated from this lake was 17.4 seeds dm-2.[15] In Massachusetts, seed densities ranged between 1,415-6,723 seeds m-2, peaking in the summer after seed dispersal and being lowest in the spring after seed germination. Ants will transport seed to their nests which may explain the observed clumped distribution of seeds. Between 1977 and 1979, 0-40 seedlings m-2 emerged in permanent Massachusetts study quadrats[4] A greenhouse study showed V. lanceolata has higher germination rates (~20%) when 5 cm above the water line and that seedlings. However, on axe lake in Ontario, the species is found around 28 cm above the water line.[16]

Fire ecology

Populations of Viola lanceolata have been known to persist through repeated annual burning.[17]


V. lanceolata produces chasmogamous flowers,[4] that when open, allow easy access to pollen by biotic and abiotic pollinators.

Herbivory and toxicology

Survivorship in Massachusetts seedlings have been reported at 0.60 and 0.82 where mortality was caused by wilting (74%), herbivory (10%), and unknown causes (16%). Slugs, field mice, and deer may contribute to the loss of leaves.[4]

Diseases and parasites

Leaves can be attacked by fungi.[4]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

Cultural use

The flowers can be candied, used in soups and baking. The roots are toxic and should be avoided.[18]

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Weakley AS (2015) Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Herbarium.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 USDA NRCS (2016) The PLANTS Database (, 05 February 2018). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
  3. Weakley, A.S. 2015. Flora of the southern and mid-atlantic states. Working Draf of 21 May 2015. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Solbrig OT, Curtis WF, Kincaid DT, Newell SJ (1988) Studies on the population biology of the genus Viola. VI. The demography of V. Fimbriatula and V. Lanceolata. Journal of Ecology 76(2):301-319.
  5. Russell NH (1954) Three field studies of hybridization in the stemless white violets. American Journal of Botany 41(8):679-686.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Florida State University Herbarium Database. URL: Last accessed: June 2021. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson, K. Craddock Burks, C. Jackson, Richard S. Mitchell, and Edward P. St. John. States and counties: Florida: Citrus, Franklin, and Liberty.
  7. Ranua VA, Weinig C (2010) Mixed-mating strategies and their sensitivity to abiotic variation in Viola lanceolata L. (Violaceae). The Open Ecology Journal 3:83-94.
  8. Schneider R (1994) The role of hydrologic regime in maintaining rare plant communities of New York's coastal plain pondshores. Biological Conservation 68:253-260.
  9. Keddy PA (1984) Plant zonation on lakeshores in Nova Scotia: A test of the resource specialization hypothesis. Journal of Ecology 72(3):797-808.
  10. Keddy PA, Wisheu IC (1989) Ecology, biogeography, and conservation of coastal plain plants: Some general principles from the study of Nova Scotian wetlands. Rhodora 91(865):72-94.
  11. Arizona State University Vascular Plant Herbarium accessed using Southeastern Regional Network of Expertise and Collections (SERNEC) data portal. URL: Last accessed: June 2021. Collectors: A.R. Hallgren. States and Counties: Minnesota: Hennepin.
  12. Brown University Herbarium accessed using Southeastern Regional Network of Expertise and Collections (SERNEC) data portal. URL: Last accessed: June 2021. Collectors: Timothy J. S. Whitfeld. States and Counties: Rhode Island: Washington.
  13. Carr, S.C., K.M. Robertson, and R.K. Peet. 2010. A vegetation classification of fire-dependent pinelands of Florida. Castanea 75:153-189.
  14. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. Accessed: 5 FEB 2018
  15. Keddy PA, Reznicek AA (1982) The role of seed banks in the persistence of Ontario's coastal plain flora. American Journal of Botany 69(1):13-22.
  16. Moore DRJ, Keddy PA (1988) Effects of a water-depth gradient on the germination of lakeshore plants. Canadian Journal of Botany 66:548-552.
  17. Platt, W.J., R. Carter, G. Nelson, W. Baker, S. Hermann, J. Kane, L. Anderson, M. Smith, K. Robertson. 2021. Unpublished species list of Wade Tract old-growth longleaf pine savanna, Thomasville, Georgia.
  18. Fernald, et al. 1958. Edible Plants of Eastern North America. Harper and Row Publishers, New York.