Quick facts

Common name(s): common dog violet, wood violet, common violet

Scientific name: Viola riviniana

Family: Violaceae

Origin: native

Flowering season: April to June

Habitat: woodland, grassland, heathland

What does dog violet look like?

Dog violets are small, perennial flowers which grow up to 15 centimetres in height.

Leaves: heart-shaped and dark green in colour.

Flowers: five striking purple petals that overlap each other slightly, with a white centre. The bottom-most petal has darker purple detail.

Not to be confused with: sweet violet (Viola odorata) which is very similar to the common dog violet in appearance but is scented – hence its name – whereas the dog violet is unscented.

Common dog violet growing in oak woodland

Credit: Richard Becker / WTML

Where to find common dog violet

Dog violet is common and widespread across the UK. Find them in woods, heaths, hedgerows and grasslands. They are in flower from April to June.

Dog violet leaved being eaten by a small pearl ordered fritillary caterpillar

Credit: Simon Colmer / naturepl.com

Value to wildlife

Common dog violet provides a source of food for rare butterflies, including the silver-washed fritillary, the high brown fritillary and the dark green fritillary. Some also use the plant as a host for their eggs.

Mythology and symbolism

Ancient Greeks thought of violets as symbols of fertility and romance.

Did you know?

In the Victorian Language of Flowers, a purple violet indicated that the sender’s thoughts were ‘occupied with love’ for the recipient.

Did you know?

The ‘dog’ in dog violet refers to its lack of scent, not the pet!

Uses of dog violet

Violets were used by the Ancient Greeks in herbal medicine and were said to help cure skin diseases. Scented varieties have been used in perfume for centuries.

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