Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Striped white violet

After severely fracturing my ankle in January, I don’t walk easily on uneven ground, so didn’t get out to photograph wildflowers as often as usual this spring. Fortunately, I was able to find plenty of this week’s featured plants in my own back yard.

Striped white violets (Viola striata) are not nearly as prevalent as common blue violets (Viola sororia), but they are found throughout Iowa and in about 20 states in the eastern part of the U.S. They are sometimes known as striped cream violet or pale violet. According to the Illinois Wildflowers website, “This species doesn’t invade lawns because its stems are too long. It is relatively easy to cultivate in gardens.”

I usually start seeing striped white violets in April, but this year’s cold spring delayed the blooming period by several weeks. I took all of the photographs enclosed below (except one) between mid-May and early June in Windsor Heights.

As usual, Illinois Wildflowers is an excellent resource for botanically accurate descriptions of striped white violet foliage and flowers. The leaves have an arrow or heart shape, like other violets.

Each flower is about ¾” across, consisting of 5 white rounded petals, 5 light green sepals, a pistil, and inserted stamens. The two lower lateral petals have patches of fine white hairs (or beards) near the throat of the flower, while the lowermost petal has purple veins that function as nectar guides.

You can see the fine white hairs and purple lines in the next two images.

A small group of flowers and buds:

Front and side view of flowers:

A view from behind:

Common blue violets often have white petals, but those typically have a large purple area near the middle. In contrast, the petals of striped white violets are all white other than the purple lines that point pollinators (various bees and other insects) toward the nectar. This photograph of a white variant of common blue violet is several years old.

In my yard, most of the blue violets bloom earlier than the striped white violets, so it’s not easy to photograph them together. I did find a late blue violet surrounded by the others one morning in May, after some rain.

Unfortunately, our yard was mowed before I managed to snap a photo of developing seed pods on striped white violet plants. They look similar to this common blue violet seed pod. As with other violet species, the pods eventually split open and eject the seeds.

The rest of the pictures show striped white violets alongside some other plants that bloom in partly shaded areas during April or May. These pink flowers are spring beauty.

The grass-like plants are some kind of sedge. Near the upper right corner, a leaf from an Aunt Lucy plant.

Most of the leaves in this shot are common black snakeroot, which blooms later in May or June.

The large leaves with smooth edges near the top of the frame are wild ginger. The small leaves around the striped white violet flowers are wild chervil.

Tags: Wildflowers

About the Author(s)

Laura Belin

  • I wish many more back yards were like this...

    …and thank you for sharing yours. Such nice photos, and I really can feel my blood pressure falling.