South Dakota Native Plant Research
Violaceae : Viola pubescens

Violaceae : Viola pubescens


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Family Name


Common Name

Downy yellow violet, Yellow wood violet

Native American Name

Lakota: waȟpé tȟó čík’ala


Viola pubescens is a caulescent perennial herb growing from an erect to horizontal rhizome, with 1-several erect to decumbent stems growing 10 to 40 cm in length and covered with a few to many spreading hairs. The leaves are alternate on the upper portion of the stem, broadly heart-shaped, blunt to rounded at the tip, 4-10 cm long and about as wide or wider. The surfaces are smooth to hairy, the margins have rounded teeth fringed with short hairs. The petioles can be shorter to longer than the blades, hairy with leafy stipules. Solitary flowers develop in the axils of leaves, with a peduncle that is shorter to longer than the leaf. The 5 green sepals are 6-10 mm long, pointed and with narrow white margins. The corolla is irregular, with 5 yellow petals that are 8-12 mm long. The lower petals have darker, purplish brown veins, the lower most swollen, the lateral pair of petals with a beard (tufts of hairs), and the upper 2 petals are usually hairless. Additionally, there are cleistogamous flowers (small flowers that don’t open) that develop in the upper axils. The fruit is a tan to brown ovoid capsule 8-12 mm long, wooly to sparsely hairy. Downy yellow violet blooms from March to June in woodlands, along streambanks and in thickets along the eastern and western borders of South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Downy yellow violet blooms early in spring. The yellow flowers are attractive and attract many species of native bees and butterflies. They make a nice addition to rock gardens, as borders along walkways or additions to woodland plantings and native plant gardens.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: The seeds are explosively ejected from the capsules at maturity. Brown capsules can be collected and allowed to dry in a paper bag or can be trapped by placing a screen bag over the capsules after they begin to develop.

Germination: Fall sowing is best. Seeds need a 60-day cold moist stratification before spring planting and should be stored in the refrigerator until treated.

Vegetative propagation: Mature plants can be divided.

Light: Partial shade.

Soil: Organically rich, well drained soils.

Water: Moist but not wet.

Violaceae : Viola pubescens