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The wildflower hour challenge this week was to ‘find a violet in bloom and work out which one it is’. Now, you might think that’s an easy task but, once you learn – as I did – that there are five subspecies of Sweet violet alone, you could easily decide – as I almost did – that this was a challenge too far. But I persevered, and found three different species (and two subspecies of one).

210321 Viola odorata var odorata (1)

Let’s start with Sweet violet, and the two subspecies I Iocated, the standard purple violet with the glorious scent, Viola odorata var. odorata, and one of the two white subspecies, Viola odorata var. dumetorum. As well as its glorious smell, the Sweet violet can most easily be identified by the rounded sepals that lay flat against the flower (if the sepals were angled back towards the stem, you’d have a Hairy violet – I didn’t find any of those this week). And I’ve not yet seen the second variation of the white violet, Viola odorata var. imberbis (which doesn’t have a ‘beard’, the hairs inside the flower).

210321 Viola odorata var dumetorum (1)

I managed to find both the dog-violets (the word ‘dog’ in this case indicating there is no scent; nothing to do with the domestic pet!). These are Common dog-violet (Viola riviniana) (photos on the left below) and Early dog-violet (Viola reichenbachiana) (photos on the right). These two can be difficult to tell apart sometimes but, though both dog-violets have pointy sepals, the Common dog’s sepals are usually bigger, with tops (the sepal appendages) that are more square, and often notched or scalloped. Also, the spurs at the back of the flowers are mostly stouter and notched at the end on the Common dog, and the veins inside its flowers are longer and multi-branching.

You can find Wildflower hour on Twitter by clicking this link, and their website is here. They’re probably on Facebook too but I no longer use FB. If you’re on Twitter, there are many excellent botanists’ accounts to follow but one I definitely recommend is Moira O’Donnell (@nervousbotanist), who often shares easy-to-follow species crib sheets, one of which I have drawn on for this post.