.    Synonym:  Viola latiuscula  Greene
     Synonym:  Viola septentrionalis  Greene
     Synonym:  Viola papilionacea  Pursh

          

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Plants of lower slopes of mesic to wet-mesic hardwood forests, forest edges and clearings; lawns, roadsides.  Flowering late April through May.  Native.

Perennial.  Stemless (i.e., flowers are borne on peduncles that arise directly from short rhizomes).  Cleistogamous flowers are produced. Stolons are not produced

Flowers:  Petals are typically purple or pale violetSepals are ovate, lance-ovate to oblong, ciliate at least in the basal half.  Lateral petals are bearded with hairs longer than 1.0 mm, and tips pointed to narrowly rounded, but not knobbed.  The spurred petal is bearded (Haines 2001), or less commonly with just a few hairs (Haines 2011)The spur is short (< 3.0 mm)Peduncles are pubescent to glabrous, usually not overtopping the leaves.

Leaves:  Leaves are broadly ovate, about as wide as long or wider; hairy, unlobed, but with bases that are notched.  Leaf margins are shallowly toothed.  Leaf tips are obtuse to rounded or short-pointed  Petioles are hairy.

Capsules:  slightly shorter than wide, green, purple-spotted.  Seeds:  light yellow-brown to dark gray-brown.

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Similar species:  Viola ×bissellii, Viola cucullata, and Viola odorata.

Notes:  Viola sororia is a "species complex", including a variety of phenotypes, which collectively exhibit considerable "plasticity".  Hybridization in the North American violets is common, especially within this complex.  In this regard, V. sororia is especially notorious.

V. sororia has been a poorly described and understood taxon from the beginning.  The following is summarized from GIL-AD (1997):

Willdenow (1806) did not designate an actual type specimen for V. sororia.  There appears to be ambiguity regarding the particular specimen (among several specimens) used in botanical drawings, drawn by Schlechtendal, to illustrate a type.  The specimens were not whole specimens, and were missing parts.  Also, Willdenow apparently accidentally described the lateral petals as "glabrous" and the spurred petal as "pubescent".  GIL-AD (1997) attempted to lectotypify V. sororia as a species, based on one of the original specimens.

As noted by GIL-AD, there had been ambiguity pertaining to the typification of V. septentrionalis as well.  Green did not designate a holotype in his protologue.  There were also discrepancies between his protologue and the data listed on some of the specimen labels.  Some of the discrepancies were later clarified by careful historical research.

Considerable uncertainty regarding the relationship between V. sororia and V. septentrionalis has persisted over the years.   Gleason and Cronquist (1991) designated the latter as a synonym of V. sororia, as did Haines (2001, 2011).  Similarly, the "Integrated Taxonomic Information System" (www.itis.gov) does not recognize V. septentrionalis.  However, GIL-AD (1997) retained V. septentrionalis as a species.

Viola ×bissellii is a fertile hybrid between V. sororia and V. cucullata.  It is prolific and widespread in distribution.  Specimens exhibit a wide range of intermediate character states, including degree and location of pubescence, length and shape of petal hairs, number of cilia on the sepals, and height of peduncles, which often overtop leaves, unlike V. sororia (strictly speaking).

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