The Common Dog Violet is most often found on short, grazed calcareous turf and limestone scree. In lowland Britain it is more commonly a woodland species, but is also found on wasteland, river banks and rocky outcrops.
In the garden it can be used in shaded areas, damp rock gardens and in the front of an herbaceous border.
The plant is an early nectar source for butterflies and is the larval host plant for a range of Fritillary butterflies, including the Small Pearl-Bordered, the Pearl-Bordered and the Silver-Washed Fritillaries.
About The Flower
The Common Dog Violet is so called due to its lack of perfume meaning it was only “suitable for dogs”. However, its close relative, Sweet Violet (Viola odorata), is quite fragrant.
It is often found in Northern Ireland’s deciduous woodland, hedgerows and old pastures and is not considered to be threatened.
Its flowers vary in colour from bluish – violet through to white and appear from March to May. Individual flowers are small but in such profusion that the plant is conspicuous from some distance. The plant itself can vary quite significantly and may have either hairless or slightly hairy stalks. It is a herbaceous perennial with heart-shaped leaves and grows well on acid and calcareous well-drained soils.
The Common Dog Violet can produce two types of flowers on the same plant. As well as ordinary open flowers, most members of the violet family including the Common Dog Violet have the ability to produce “cleistogamous flowers”. These are flowers which do not open but are able to fertilise themselves.
Fertilised flowers produce seeds in capsules which can be hurled out by an explosive mechanism. As there is little wind on the woodland floor this helps to give the plant a better chance to spread themselves. They are also attractive to ants, which can help in seed dispersal.
Although there are no medicinal uses known of the Common Dog Violet, it is possible to eat the young leaves and flower buds – raw or cooked. A tea can be made from the leaves and when added to soup they thicken it in much the same way as okra.
Irish name - Chon
Violet family - Violaceae