Canada violet (Viola canadensis)

Canada violet flowers

Top facts

  • The genus name of the Canada violet, Viola, is assigned to many sweet-smelling flowers.
  • The Canada violet has heart-shaped leaves.
  • The Canada violet is a host plant for butterflies.
  • A relatively shade-tolerant species, the Canada violet can be found in areas with moderate levels of light.
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Canada violet fact file

Canada violet description

GenusViola (1)

The name of the genus to which the Canada violet (Viola canadensis) belongs, Viola, is derived from a Latin term given to many different sweet-smelling flowers. The second part of the scientific name, canadensis, means ‘of Canada’, and refers to the range of this species (4).

The Canada violet is a fairly low-growing (4) perennial herb (2) (3). The single flower inflorescences (3) have five white petals (3), which are yellow at the base (2) (4) (5), slightly purple on the underside (2) (3) (4) (5) and are enclosed within five green sepals (3).  Two of the petals are bent upwards and are somewhat dissimilar to the other petals, which have purple veins at the base (3) (4). The leaves are heart shaped (3) (4) (5) and may have a small amount of hair on the surface, although some may be hair free. The leaves are arranged alternately (3) on the branching stems, which are purple and covered in small hairs (5). The brown seeds of the Canada violet are enclosed within a 3-valved capsule, which contains around 15 seeds (3).

Also known as
Canada white violet, Canadian white violet, western Canada violet.
Height: 20 - 40 cm (2)
Petal length: 1.5 - 2.5 cm (2)
Flower width: 1.2 - 1.7 cm (3)

Canada violet biology

There is very little information available on the biology of the Canada violet, although its flowering season is known to run between April and September (2) (3). As with all species in the Violaceae family, it is likely that the Canada violet has both male and female flowers and is pollinated by insects (9). The fruit of Violaceae species is retained within capsules, which often open explosively. The Canada violet is a host plant for butterflies (8).


Canada violet range

The range of the Canada violet includes most of Canada, excluding the extreme northeast, and a large majority of the United States, except for Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, California, Arizona and Florida (6).


Canada violet habitat

The Canada violet is found in swamps (7), moist woodland (4) (7), meadows, thickets and mountain brush (3). It is tolerant of moderate amounts of shade (8).


Canada violet status

The Canada violet has not yet been assessed by the IUCN.


Canada violet threats

There are not currently known to be any threats to the Canada violet.


Canada violet conservation

There are not currently known to be any conservation measures in place for the Canada violet, although it is listed as a threatened species in Connecticut and endangered in Illinois, Maine and New Jersey (6).


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Find out more about North American plant conservation:



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A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
A small, non-woody, seed bearing plant in which all the aerial parts die back at the end of each growing season.
The reproductive shoot of a plant, which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
A plant that normally lives for more than two years. After an initial period, the plant usually produces flowers once a year.
To transfer pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
A leaf-like, usually green part of the protective outer layer of a flower bud.


  1. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (January, 2014)
  2. Yatskievych, K. (2000) Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers. University of Indiana Press, Bloomington, Indiana.
  3. Reaume, T. (2009) 620 Wild Plants of North America. Nature Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  4. Pavia, J. (2003) Rocky Mountain Wildflowers: Photos, Descriptions, and Early Explorer Insights. Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado.
  5. Hunter, C.G. (1984) Wildflowers of Arkansas. The Ozark Society Foundation, Little Rock, Arkansas.
  6. United States Department of Agriculture - Canada violet (January, 2014)
  7. Rhoads, A.F. and Block, T.A. (2007) The Plants of Pennsylvania: An Illustrated Manual. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  8. Garguillo, M.B. (2007) A Guide to the Native Plants of the New York City Region. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
  9. Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Image credit

Canada violet flowers  
Canada violet flowers

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