Dooryard/Common Blue Violet

Alternative Lawns – Ground Cover Species

picture of violet in bloom
Mature violet plant in late Spring/early Summer

Dooryard or Common Blue Violet Viola sororia

Overview: Native, low growing cover plant. Easy to grow and adapts well. 

Landscaping: Perennial with all basal leaves; can grow in a variety of habitats, from woods, gardens, fields and other human created habitats, from full sun to partial shade. Plants do not spread by runners but can become a groundcover as they readily (and abundantly) reseed.

Time to forage: Spring (flowers) into Summer (foliage).

Identification: All leaves come from the base of the plant; flowers are purple and highly modified to form a spur at the base. Don’t confuse it with the much less common downy yellow violet, which has yellow flowers and leaves that emerge from the stem as well as the base.

Where to find it: Can be very abundant in open woods, lawns, gardens and other human created habitats.

Edible parts of plant: leaves and flowers are a nice addition to salads; leaves can be used as a potherb.

Tips for foraging: Can be very abundant, forming large colonies.

Ethnobotany: Native Americans have used violets as poultices for headaches and boils, as an infusion for dysentery, kidney problems, bladder issues, heart pain, colds and coughs. They were also used for skin problems, as application research confirmed in 1995.

Importance to natural resources: Seeds are spread by ants, flowers attract pollinators especially bees.

Nutritional value (per 100 grams): Provides 307% of Vitamin A and 262% of the daily requirement per 100 gram serving (about 3 cups).

Recipes: Violet Jelly
• 2 cups fresh violets
• 2 cups boiling water
• Juice of one lemon
• 1 pack pectin
• 4 cups sugar

Place the violets blossoms in a glass jar and cover them with the boiling water. Make an infusion with violets and water by placing your blossoms in a glass jar and covering them with boiling water. Put a lid on the jar and set aside for anywhere between 2-24 hours. The water will turn to an aqua blue. Strain and discard the spent flowers. Add the lemon juice and the mix will change to a pretty pink. (After you do this a time or two, you can sort of judge how much lemon juice to add to get a color that `suits’ you.) Stir in pectin, and bring to a boil. Add sugar, bring to a boil again, and boil vigorously for one minute. Skim if necessary. Pour into sterile jars and seal. Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups jelly.

Additional References:
Wild Edible
North Carolina Extension and Outreach
St. Olaf College
Eat the Weeds by Ben Harris (1955)
Penn State Extension and Outreach
Native American Ethnobotany

Seed Sources: 

Prairie Moon Nursery

Natural Communities