Fen violet (Viola persicifolia)

GenusViola (1)
SizeHeight: up to 25 cm (2)

Classified as Endangered in Great Britain (3), and fully protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (4).

This speices is perhaps the rarest (5), and most beautiful of all our native violets (6). The fragile looking flowers are bluish-white in colour and usually have a sheen reminiscent of mother-of-pearl (6).

Once known from a number of locations in the south of Britian, the fen violet is now restricted to a single site in Oxfordshire (2) and just two sites in Cambridgeshire; Wicken Fen and Woodwalton Fen (5). The species occurs in Continental Europe, where it is also rare (2).

Inhabits damp habitats such as fens, in short calcareous grass with a tendency to flood in winter and where there is occasional grazing or disturbance. (6).

The fen violet is a short-lived perennial species (6), which begins to flower in May (2) and has an unpredictable pattern of occurrence (5). The seeds are known to be resilient and need disturbance of the ground to allow them to germinate (2).

Habitat loss, drainage and inapropriate management of fenland sites have contributed to the decline of this violet (5).

The fen violet is included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. English Nature is funding a monitoring programme for the species, and seed has been collected for the Millenium Seed Bank at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and for the University of Oxford's Botanic Garden (2). There are plans to introduce the species to a site where it can be appreciated by the public (2). Both of the Cambridgeshire sites where fen violet occurs are National Nature Reserves (5), and the species is fully protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (4).

Information authenticated by Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity:

  1. Hilton-Taylor, C. (compiler) 2000. 2000 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. xviii + 61pp. Downloaded on 21 March 2002 http://www.redlist.org
  2. UK Gateway. (March 2002): http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/town/gateway
  3. Wigginton, M. J. (1999) British Red Data Books 1; Vascular Plants. 3rd Edition. JNCC, Peterborough.
  4. JNCC. (March 2002): www.jncc.gov.uk/species/protect/plants.htm
  5. Wicken Fen (March 2002): www.demon.co.uk/ecoln/wicken_fen/sprecov.html#viola
  6. Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London