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How Violets Grow

Violet Botany

Violets are quite unusual blossoms in many respects, but if you want to unravel the mystery of the violet's flowers parts, you'll need to bone up on your botany. In researching the parts of the violet, you'll run across big words like zygomorphic, actinomorphic, and cleistogamous. Spring  -  Violets

  1. Zygomorphic simply means that no matter which way you turn the flower, it's symmetrical (both sides look the same). Some violet flowers are and some aren't.
  2. Actinomorphic means when you look at the flower "eye to eye" it's symmetrical, but if you look at it crosswise or at any other angle, it won't be. Again, some violet flowers are and some aren't.
  3. Cleistogamous comes from kleistos, a Greek word for closed. What it describes is flower that can produce seed without having obvious flowers. Viola species (violets) are often cleistogamous.
The violet is a "complete" flower in that it has calyx, corolla, stamens, and pistils. Violets are divided into three groups:

violetsAlthough each group of violet flowers has distinct characteristics, all violets (viola) have a few traits in common as well. Violet flowers all have five petals (perianth). The uppermost petals stand like sentinels over the flower. The lowest petal is the largest and often colored in vivid contrast to the rest of the flower to attract pollinating insects.

Still, the violet doesn't rely on the insect kingdom to spread its beauty.

Violets Know How to Grow!

The success of the wild violet is probably due to its many methods of propagation. Although firmly planted with a deep taproot, many cultivars send shoots from rhizomes underground while others multiply from runners above ground.

In addition, wild violets have two kinds of flowers, both of which produce seeds, which is why, although many types of violets are classified as annuals or biennials, they often "volunteer" to come back for a return engagement next season. However, patience and diligence are required of gardeners who try to grow the violet flower from seed, since it may take up to five years to achieve a blossoming plant.

The showy flowers that dazzle us with their brilliant displays are called chasmogamous flowers. These flowers broadcast their seeds to bloom where they fall or to be eaten and borne away by wildlife. Once seeds develop, the seedpods dry until they burst, catapulting the seeds up to four feet away Since all parts of the plant are edible, wild violets are a favorite meal for many denizens of the garden.

showy-violetAfter the larger flowers have withered, you'll see a patch of smaller violet flowers at the base of the plant. Fortunately, the violet knows how to make its seed germinate, grow and bloom. After the normal "showy" violet blossoms are gone, if you look closely you will see the tiny closed flowers that self-pollinate to produce violet seeds, the cleistogamous flowers. These flowers, which never open serve only as an incubator for extremely fertile and abundant seeds and give the violet another rare characteristic, bisexuality.

The perianth (external part of the flower) of the violet flower is divided into five layered or overlapping sepals and five layered or overlapping petals. The sepals are small leaves that may be just as brightly colored as the violet flower, or in some varieties may be green as the foliage.

The male part of the violet flower consists of five stamens with anthers (hold the pollen) that are on very short stems. These male organs alternate with the petals and are usually separate from each other, but are sometimes finely connected with filaments.

Although a lovely addition to your perennial garden, the wild violet cannot be tamed. Before working it into your landscape, be sure to establish firm barriers or you will soon see it blooming in profusion from one end of your lawn to the other!

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