In Flora Botannica Richard Mabey’s opening statement on the violet family reads: ‘The violets are a variable and promiscuous family, apt to throw up all kinds of sports and hybrids.’ This once meant that botanists split the family into as many as 40 different species, depending on their colour variations. Fortunately, common sense and modern scientific analysis has now prevailed and that number has been almost halved. Still, violets are not always easy to identify.
Although the violets in my photos are both purple and white, they are, I believe, all Sweet violets (Viola odorata), as they all had the distinctive scent of this variety – Common dog violets (Viola riviniana) are so called because they do not smell. In olden times, Sweet violets were one of the herbs that were strewn on floors to improve the smell of your home, and they have also been used by herbalists to treat insomnia, depression and headache. All that, and pretty too!