Bird's Foot Violet - Viola pedata

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The Bird's Foot Violet is native to much of the eastern U.S. and part of Canada. However it is rare and/or threatened in some areas due to prairie destruction.

This violet grows to about 3 to 6 inches high. The leaves resemble a bird's foot. Flowers come in 2 forms - one is lilac and white in color the other has two petals that are a deeper purple (see pictures below). Blooms in the spring.

Bird's Foot Violets prefer full sun and somewhat dry, rocky or sandy, well-drained soil.

The seeds are ejected a few inches from the plant and are often carried off by ants which are attracted to the sugary coating on the seeds.

Bird's Foot Violet is a Host Plant for the Regal Fritillary

Regal Fritillaries (Speyeria idalia) use this violet as a host plant. It is a very beautiful butterfly that was once very common across the midwest and eastern U.S. but now is very rare due to habitat destruction - or more specifically due to tall grass prairie destruction.

More Bird's Foot Violet Pictures

Light colored flowers:

Light and dark colored flowers:

Close up of leaf:

Picture showing pebbles I grow mine with:

Another picture of one with two colored flowers:

Where to buy Bird's Foot Violet

The only place I've found that sells it is Hamilton Seeds and Wildflowers, although there must be other places that sell it. But its doubtful that you will find it at a typical nursery.

Growing Tips

I tried starting this plant from seed before but had no success. I recommend buying the plant.

They like somewhat sandy, dry soil.

Current status of this plant in my garden (last updated: 3/09)

Regal Fritillaries would be extremely unlikely to be found in this area, but I still like to grow a host plant for them anyway. If nothing else, it opens an opportunity to educate people about the destruction of tall grass prairies and how habitat destruction can result in species extinction.

I grow mine in a slightly raised bed that I filled with mixture of potting soil, sand and some small pebbles. I then covered the top of the area with the small pebbles too, just to make it look nicer. I don't know that all of this is necessary, but it seems to be working. Over the past few years that I've had mine I've lost only 2 out of 9 plants.

The Viola Family

The Viola family consists of herbs usually with colorful flowers. There are about 900 species worldwide. Some species make flowers that don't open, but self pollinate.


From the U. S. Department of Agriculture:


Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Subclass: Dilleniidae
Order: Violales
Family: Violaceae Violet family
Genus: Viola L. violet
Species: Viola pedata L. birdfoot violet

Additional Information

Good information about Bird's Foot Violet can be found at the Prairie Wildflowers of Illinois site.

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