Viola sororia

Common Names: Common blue violet, common meadow violet, purple violet, the lesbian flower, woolly blue violet, hooded violet, wood violet
Category: Plants
Sub-category: Violet family

It is the state flower of Wisconsin, Illinois, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. The common blue violet is also called the 'lesbian flower' because in the early 1900s, lesbian women would give violets to the women they were wooing. This symbolized their 'Sapphic' desire, so called because Sappho, a Greek lyric poet, in one of her poems described herself and her lover as wearing garlands of violets. This practice became popular in the 1910 – 1930 time period, and has become a substantial symbol for lesbian women in the modern era as well.

A typical mature plant may be 6 inches across and 4 inches high, with the flowers slightly higher than the leaves. The leaves are individually up to 3 inches long and 3 inches across (excluding the long petioles), and vary in color from yellowish green to dark green, depending on growing conditions. They are oval-ovate to orbicular-cordate in shape, and crenate or serrate along the margins. Different populations of plants can vary in the hairiness of their leaves – from nearly glabrous to conspicuously hairy or pubescent. The flowers are about 0.75 inches across, and consist of 5 rounded petals. There are 2 upper petals, 2 lateral petals with white hairs (or beards) near the throat of the flower, and a lower petal that functions as a landing pad for visiting insects. The flowers vary among subspecies and are medium to dark violet or mostly white with streaks of blue. There is no noticeable floral scent.

Considered a weed in many places, it is commonly found in lawns, fields and near water sources. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late spring.

Primary Flower Color: Blue/Purple
Secondary Flower Color: White
Edible Notes: Viola sororia has historically been used for food and for medicine. The flowers and leaves are edible, and some sources suggest the roots can also be eaten. As an alternative, look for violet flavored products in specialty stores, such as candied violet flowers, or C. Howard's Violet Candy and Violet gum.
Warnings: Not known to be dangerous.