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Marsh blue violet

Viola cucullata

Viola cucullata

Regular price $6.48 USD
Regular price Sale price $6.48 USD
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Sun/shade: Full sun to full shade

Soil moisture: Medium to wet

Height: 0.5-1"

Spread: 0.5'

Flowering period: May

Marsh blue violet’s pretty blooms sit poised atop their delicate stems like fluttering creatures paused mid-flight. The stems are taller than those of many other violet species, reaching up to 10”, and giving an added touch of elegance to the plant. In nature, marsh blue violets tend to occur in wetland environments such as the edges of swamps and marshes and along streams. In the home garden, marsh blue violet prefers wet or consistently moist soils, and sunlight ranging from full exposure to shade. If planted in soils of average moisture, marsh blue violet may need to be watered during summer dry spells.

The plant spreads via both seed and rhizome to form small colonies, but it is not an aggressive plant and does not spread to the degree of the common blue violet, which frequently inhabits lawns. Marsh blue violet is appropriate for both formal and naturalized gardens, especially rain gardens and plantings in wet places. The plant’s diminutive size makes it suitable for areas reserved for short plants, and its tolerance for shade makes it useful for planting at the base of a tree. Marsh blue violet blooms in April and May, adding a lovely blue accent to spring plantings which include foamflower, wild geranium, spring beauties, ragwort species, and others.

In terms of wildlife value, marsh blue violet benefits a number of species, including spring-foraging bees, for whom the flower provides both nectar and pollen. Like some other spring wildflowers, marsh blue violets have also evolved a mutually beneficial relationship with ants. The plant’s seeds have a fatty appendage called an elaiosome, which the ants consume. The ants transport the seed to their nest prior to removing the elaiosome, thereby aiding to disperse the seed.

Finally, marsh blue violets – along with other violets – are the primary food source for caterpillars of the great spangled fritillary butterfly. When mature, these black and orange beauties may stick around in the garden to obtain nectar from their favorite plants: purple coneflower, mints, milkweeds, hollow Joe Pye, and ironweed.

Photo by Julie Slater.

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