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Linnaeus named the Viola genus in 1753.   "Viola" is Latin for "violet colored".

Click for more Viola photographs.

Viola adunca

Viola adunca
Viola adunca variety adunca (Violet)
Violaceae (Violet Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine.  Woodlands, meadows.  Spring, summer.
Lower Stoner Mesa Trail, May 26, 2004.

These very common, tiny, blue-to-purple, spurred violets are often hidden among grasses and taller plants, especially in Aspen forests of Colorado and Utah and to a lesser extent, New Mexico and Arizona. Leaves and flower stems branch from a main stem above ground (in contrast to V. nephrophylla shown below). 

Many Viola species commonly cover large areas with scores of flowering plants.  Some species of Viola is almost always blooming in the Four Corners area during spring and summer.

James Edward Smith (1759-1828) named this species in 1817 from a specimen collected by Archibald Menzies along the west coast of North America in 1787-1788.  The plant has endured several dozen name changes.  "Adunca" is Latin for "hooked" and refers to the spur at the back of the flower.

Viola adunca

Viola adunca variety bellidifolia

Viola adunca variety adunca and Viola bellidifolia
Violaceae (Violet Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine.  Woodlands, meadows.  Spring, summer'
Navajo Lake Trail, June 25, 2005 and
Lizard Head Trail, July 2, 2004.

Flowers, leaves, and stems of western San Juan Viola plants that grow at 9,000 feet may be two to five times the size of those growing at 12,000 feet. The second photograph shows what is often called Viola adunca variety adunca or sometimes Viola labradorica. Its flowers are only 1/3 the size of the flowers in the first photograph. This smaller plant, growing on alpine tundra, has Viola adunca's characteristic spur but it is no bigger than a mouse's nose; the whole plant is a miniaturized work of art.

On-going research by Fort Lewis College Professor Dr. Ross McCauley and Fort Lewis graduate, Benjamin Downing, indicates that the alpine plants is actually a distinct species: Viola bellidifolia, a plant first named and described by Edward Greene. The plant is also sometimes referred to as Viola adunca variety bellidifolia. Click to see more photographs of Viola adunca variety bellidifolia

Viola adunca
Viola adunca variety adunca (Violet)
Violaceae (Violet Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine.  Woodlands, meadows.  Spring, summer.
Navajo Lake Trail, June 25, 2005.

Viola nephrophylla
Viola nephrophylla. Synonyms: Viola sororia, Viola papilionaceae. (Bog Violet)

Montane.  Wet meadows and wet open woods.  Spring, summer.
North of Durango, May 29, 2007.

William Weber indicates that Viola nephrophylla is a synonym for Viola sororia but Kartesz and the USDA Plants Database indicate that the two are distinct species: V. sororia  is a central and eastern U.S. species and does not occur in Colorado except perhaps as an escaped cultivated plant (as is the case in central Utah); V. nephrophylla is a western and central U.S. species which does occur in Colorado.  V. sororia has hairy stems and leaf undersides; the photographs show the hairless stems and leaves of V. nephrophylla.

Edward Greene named V. nephrophylla in 1896 from specimens he collected in the Montrose, Colorado area in 1896.  "Nephrophylla" is Greek for "kidney shaped leaves".

Viola nephrophylla
Viola nephrophylla. Synonyms: Viola sororia, Viola papilionaceae. (Bog Violet)

Montane.  Wet meadows and wet open woods.  Spring, summer.
North of Durango, May 29, 2007.

Viola nephrophylla enjoys moist roots in wet meadows and other boggy areas.  This characteristic sets it apart from the more common Four Corners blue Violet, V. adunca (above).  V. nephrophylla is also quickly distinguished from V. adunca because it is stemless, i.e., flowers and leaves arise directly from the caudex (the top of the underground root).  Note also the short nub at the back of the flower in contrast to the full spur on V. adunca.

Viola nephrophylla

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Viola adunca

Range map for Viola nephrophylla

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