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Viola odorata - L.                
                 
Common Name Sweet Violet
Family Violaceae
Synonyms Viola hirta L. Viola hirta subsp. brevifimbriata W. Beck
Known Hazards May cause vomiting. Possible additive effect with laxatives [301].
Habitats Fields, hedgerows and woodlands, especially on calcareous soils[7, 17, 31].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Norway south and east to N. Africa, W. Asia and Syria.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary       

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Viola odorata is an evergreen Perennial growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Feb to April, and the seeds ripen from Apr to June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, Cleistogamous.The plant is self-fertile.


USDA hardiness zone : Coming soon


Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Viola odorata Sweet Violet


(c) 2010 Ken Fern & Plants For A Future
Viola odorata Sweet Violet
commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viola_odorata_Sturm56.jpg
   
Habitats       
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Ground Cover; Hedgerow; Cultivated Beds; North Wall. In. East Wall. In. South Wall. In. West Wall. In.
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Leaves.
Edible Uses: Condiment;  Tea.

Young leaves and flower buds - raw or cooked[21, 85, 183]. Usually available all through the winter[K]. The leaves have a very mild flavour, though they soon become quite tough as they grow older. They make a very good salad, their mild flavour enabling them to be used in bulk whilst other stronger-tasting leaves can then be added to give more flavour[K]. When added to soup they thicken it in much the same way as okra[62, 85, 159]. Also used as a flavouring in puddings etc. A tea can be made from the leaves[85]. Flowers - raw. Used to decorate salads and desserts[5, 9, 85]. A sweet mild flavour with a delicate perfume, the flowers are an especially welcome decoration for the salad bowl since they are available in late winter[K]. The flowers are also used fresh to flavour and colour confectionery[238]. A soothing tea can be made from the leaves and flowers[85, 183]. A leaf extract is used to flavour sweets, baked goods and ice cream[183].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiinflammatory;  Antirheumatic;  Cancer;  Demulcent;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Emetic;  Emollient;  Expectorant;  Homeopathy;  Laxative;  
Purgative.

Sweet violet has a long and proven history of folk use, especially in the treatment of cancer and whooping cough[4, 165, 218]. It also contains salicylic acid, which is used to make aspirin[244]. It is therefore effective in the treatment of headaches, migraine and insomnia[244]. The whole plant is anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, and laxative[4, 7, 21, 46, 165]. It is taken internally in the treatment of bronchitis, respiratory catarrh, coughs, asthma, and cancer of the breast, lungs or digestive tract[238]. Externally, it is used to treat mouth and throat infections[238]. The plant can either be used fresh, or harvested when it comes into flower and then be dried for later use[4]. The flowers are demulcent and emollient[240]. They are used in the treatment of biliousness and lung troubles[240]. The petals are made into a syrup and used in the treatment of infantile disorders[240]. The roots is a much stronger expectorant than other parts of the plant but they also contain the alkaloid violine which at higher doses is strongly emetic and purgative[4, 244, 254]. They are gathered in the autumn and dried for later use[7]. The seeds are diuretic and purgative. They have been used in the treatment of urinary complaints are considered to be a good remedy for gravel[4]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the whole fresh plant[4]. It is considered useful in the treatment of spasmodic coughs and rheumatism of the wrist[4]. An essential oil from the flowers is used in aromatherapy in the treatment of bronchial complaints, exhaustion and skin complaints[238].
Other Uses
Essential;  Litmus.

An essential oil from the flowers and leaves is used in perfumery[57, 100]. 1000kg of leaves produces about 300 - 400g absolute[46]. The flowers are used to flavour breath fresheners[238]. A pigment extracted from the flowers is used as a litmus to test for acids and alkalines[4, 13, 100, 115]. Plants can be grown as a ground cover when spaced about 30cm apart each way[208]. They make an effective weed-excluding cover[K].
Cultivation details                                         
Succeeds in most soils but prefers a cool moist well-drained humus-rich soil in partial or dappled shade and protection from scorching winds[1, 14, 31, 200]. When grown in the open it prefers a moderately heavy rich soil[1]. Plants have done very well in a hot dry sunny position on our Cornish trial grounds[K]. Tolerates sandstone and limestone soils. Plants are hardy to about -20°c[187]. Sweet violets are very ornamental plants, there are many named varieties[187]. They produce their delicately scented flowers in late winter and early spring - these are designed for fertilisation by bees and since there are few bees around at this time of year these flowers seldom set seed[4]. However, the plants also produce a second type of flower later in the year. These never open, but seed is produced within them by self-fertilization[4]. The plants will often self-sow freely when well-sited[188]. They can also spread fairly rapidly at the roots when they are growing well[K]. Responds well to an annual replanting in rich loose leafy soils[187]. All members of this genus have more or less edible leaves and flower buds, though those species with yellow flowers can cause diarrhoea if eaten in large quantities[62, 85, 159].
                                                                                 
Propagation                                         
Seed - best sown in the autumn in a cold frame. The seed requires a period of cold stratification and the germination of stored seed can be erratic. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Division in the autumn or just after flowering. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, though we have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring.
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Expert comment                                         
 
      
Author                                         
L.
                                                                                 
Botanical References                                         
17200
                                                                                 
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[5]Mabey. R. Food for Free.
Edible wild plants found in Britain. Fairly comprehensive, very few pictures and rather optimistic on the desirability of some of the plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[9]Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
[13]Triska. Dr. Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants.
Very interesting reading, giving some details of plant uses and quite a lot of folk-lore.
[14]Holtom. J. and Hylton. W. Complete Guide to Herbs.
A good herbal.
[17]Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles.
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[31]Brown. Shade Plants for Garden and Woodland.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[57]Schery. R. W. Plants for Man.
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.
[62]Elias. T. and Dykeman. P. A Field Guide to N. American Edible Wild Plants.
Very readable.
[85]Harrington. H. D. Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains.
A superb book. Very readable, it gives the results of the authors experiments with native edible plants.
[100]Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide.
An excellent and well illustrated pocket guide for those with very large pockets. Also gives some details on plant uses.
[115]Johnson. C. P. The Useful Plants of Great Britain.
Written about a hundred years ago, but still a very good guide to the useful plants of Britain.
[159]McPherson. A. and S. Wild Food Plants of Indiana.
A nice pocket guide to this region of America.
[165]Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism.
An excellent small herbal.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[187]Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Perennials Volumes 1 and 2.
Photographs of over 3,000 species and cultivars of ornamental plants together with brief cultivation notes, details of habitat etc.
[188]Brickell. C. The RHS Gardener's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers
Excellent range of photographs, some cultivation details but very little information on plant uses.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[208]Thomas. G. S. Plants for Ground Cover
An excellent detailled book on the subject, very comprehensive.
[218]Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[240]Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
[244]Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs
Deals with all types of herbs including medicinal, culinary, scented and dye plants. Excellent photographs with quite good information on each plant.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
[301]Karalliedde. L. and Gawarammana. I. Traditional Herbal Medicines
A guide to the safer use of herbal medicines.

Readers comment                                         
 
Elizabeth H.
Tue Jun 17 2008

theflowerexpert

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