Viola odorata

Sweet Violet is a fantastic and beautiful little plant I have recently discovered in my back yard. It is a creeping perennial that grows 6-10 inches tall and 12-18 inches across. It likes partly shaded areas with moist, well-drained soil, but can tolerate full sun in cool summer areas. Blooms in late winter or early spring. Here in East Texas they have been blooming already for a few weeks at least.

My backyard is full of oak trees, and even through the dense layer of leaves, I can easily find heart shaped leaves peeking out, and the occasional dark purple-blue flowers. I spent a little time digging a few up and transplanting them into my raised flower bed a few days ago. Fingers crossed that they take to the move.

Foliage is evergreen, with slightly toothed, heart-shaped leaves that are a little fuzzy and grow in a basal rosette low to the ground. The flowers, with 5 petals, bloom on taller, leafless stalks/stems.

Propagated by seed or division, the plants spread by runners, and multiply at a decent rate once established. Cut runners and prune off spindly growth in the late fall for prettier/healthier plants come spring if you are cultivating them in your garden or flower beds.

The following bulleted info I found here.
• There are sweet violets and dog violets, the latter having no scent. Both types have heart-shaped leaves.
• Scented violets are less commonly seen in the wild than the scentless varieties. Of the former, the whole plant is scented, not just the flower.
• Of the dog violets, north American violet Viola cucullata, or purple violet, is bigger, later, and disappears completely in winter. Viola labradorica ‘Purpurea’ has purple leaves, a good complement to its paler petals. Both are ideal for wilder spaces as they can be invasive.
• Violets thrive in woodlands and on rough ground; they will grow in your garden if you can give them the right conditions.
• Like wild strawberries, they make easy ground cover, spreading through runners, which easily take root. They make a very traditional (and charming) companion to roses.
• While people bemoan the diminishing prevalence of violets in the wild (those who are not overrun with them at home), it is easy to create your own colony, making a deposit on the future of the species

Although the plants are rabbit and deer resistant, they can suffer from slugs, snails, red spider mites, violet gall midge, pansy leaf spot, and powdery mildew.

Now for my favorite part: Flowers, leaves, and roots can be used medicinally! Also try the flowers fresh or candied for a treat.

” All the violets are cold and moist while they are fresh and green, and are used to cool any heat or distemperature of the body, either inwardly or outwardly.”

Nicholas Culpepper, 17th Century Herbalist

Flowers and leaves have gentle expectorant (makes coughs productive) and demulcent (relieves inflammation or irritation) properties, and induce light sweating. Often used as an infusion or syrup for treating coughs, chest colds, and congestion. The root is a much stronger expectorant and at higher doses is emetic (induces vomiting), so be warned.

There is a great recipe here for Violet Syrup. There are some other interesting articles on that site as well. I have no affiliation with them, I just found it worth sharing.

*Recipe calls for sugar, but you can always use honey, agave, or some other sweetener. Honey, in my opinion would be a much better choice, especially if you can find locally harvested, because it has its own host of health benefits, but do not heat too much or you will lose some of the properties. Also, when adding boiling water to a glass jar, make sure the jar is hot as well or it will shatter. Any of my canning buddies out there will know exactly what I mean.

There is another recipe here, where I also found dosage info and some other uses.
Adult: 1 tbsp.  2-3x day
Child: 1 tbsp. 1-2x day
General: use 1 tbsp. daily to prevent the flu during flu season (Maybe mix in with your elderberry syrup? Experimenting is a good thing as long as you do it with common sense in tow. And do your own research!)
Sleep: 1 tbsp. before bedtime to promote a good night’s sleep 

*No side effects have been reported if you take too much, but caution is always advised.

**One recipe says do not let violet water boil, the other says bring to just bubbling, then reduce heat. Any kind of processing, which includes cooking, has a tendency to harm or kill off beneficial properties of any kind of food or remedy, so be wary how much heat you use when creating things especially for healing purposes. Some heat is generally needed, like when dissolving sugar or blending honey in, but you can lower the efficacy of your remedies if you get overzealous or think it needs to boil forever to be beneficial.

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Many blessings,
Emma Lee

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