Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Viola’s love story

Some of you might already know that my favourite flowers are probably Viola’s, however I never did any work or wrote anything about them – to be honest I don’t even know why they are my favourites. Personally, they do have a special meaning to me as Viola riviniana was the first plant I identified alone using a flora – this is a mark in a botanist’s life!

Viola riviniana
Viola’s have the cutest flowers on earth, and although this is a very personal opinion, many people had similat thoughts. Many of us know Viola’s as ornamental flowers – in fact their beauty also attracted gardeners since early 19th century. Many varieties of pansies (hybrids between Viola tricolor with other Viola species) were produced since then and today we have countless cultivars of the original pansy, but I do prefer the wild Viola tricolor. There is nothing like having wild Viola’s “staring” at us – they are lovely! To start with, I have to say that the Portuguese common name for Viola is “amor-perfeito”, meaning “perfect love”, but it is not only a Portuguese thing to think that Viola’s are so deeply related with love… Or is it a Portuguese thing to give attention to Viola’s love clues?
They are also famous by their sweet odor, especially Viola odorata, which is used in perfume industry. Not happy with being beautiful and fragrant they are also full of goodness! The entire plant is edible, and in Europe, violets are used to make popular spring salads. They also have being used with medicinal purposes in many cultures and for the most variable reasons since ancient times. Europeans, Asians and also Native Americans used to produce traditional medicines with Viola’s leaves and flowers. Homer said once that Athenians used Viola tricolor to temper the anger, but it is also used with many other medicinal purposes, including pain relief and heart problems. It is clear for me – it is used to cure love diseases! And in fact, Ancient Greeks considered the violet a symbol of fertility and love, using them in love potions... Can't be a coincidence.

Viola’s are mainly pollinated by bees, and this is easy to understand by looking at the flower features. The colors are mainly purple, but also yellow and white; the lines in the petals act as landing lines, indicating to the pollinator where the nectar can be found. One of the most characteristic features of Viola flowers is the presence of the spur – a structure that produces and stores the nectar. The pollinator must follow the landing lines to find the nectar in the spur, and by doing so, the pollen gets attached to its body – pollination succeeds again! The leaves of Viola are usually heart-shaped (how adorable is that?!), at least in the base of the plant.

 To finish with, I just want to make a small art reference I found about these loving flowers. Viola’s also inspired many artists (no wonder!), but I won’t bother you with a list of famous classic pieces. I just want to share this last curiosity about “Shakespeare in Love”, have you ever seen this film? It tells a fiction story of Shakespeare while writing his famous “Romeo and Juliet”, inspired by his muse, a woman named Viola – coincidence? In any case, if roses are for some the flowers of passion for some, violas are surely synonyms of pure & sincere love after this post.


  1. I love the last bit about the Art of Viola. I hope it is also distributed on the sahul land.

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  3. Before you write about the inspiration risen by these flowers in artists I was thinking that 4 season´s of Vivaldi would be a music composition worthy of these beauty!Just to enjoy (certainly again) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRxofEmo3HA :) I don´t have words to describe some of them like the tricolor :) wonderful world!

  4. The Four Seasons by Vivaldi is indeed an ode to Mother Nature, surely Violas are the flowers to think of :) But I have a very biased opinion about Violas!

  5. apart from your personal taste, they surely deserve a great music ;)