Thursday, 29 September 2011

Violets of New River

I would venture to guess that violets are one of the more recognizable flowers in the world. I bet everyone reading this blog, if presented with an image of a flower of the genus Viola, would say, "That's a violet." In addition to a staggering number of wild species, there are many cultivated species, too, and avid gardeners may be familiar with a number of them (those cute little Johnny Jump Ups and basket upon basket of pansies at the garden center come quickly to my mind). While we might easily recognize them as a genus, being able to identify individual species takes a little more work - work to which I have not yet committed myself. However, with the help of field guides, the internet, and knowledgeable friends, I was able to identify and take photos of 5 different species of violets during my trip to the New River Birding and Nature Festival. I'm sure there were many more species that I walked right past without even noticing, but we'll blame that on the fact that I was watching birds!

Canadian Violet, Viola canadensis
There is no doubt that this is a very bold, showy violet. I was surprised to learn its identity, actually - I was expecting it to be something more exotic. I'm sure I have encountered it at some point in my life, but I was very much impressed when I saw several clumps of this species one day.

The Canada Violet is large, both in stature and the size of its bloom. The back of the flower's petals have a purplish hue to them. Go check out Dawn's blog for a photo of the flower from the back. Heck, just check out her blog for the heck of it. She's done a lot of serious birding over the last month that you might want to read about.

Marsh Blue Violet, Viola cucullata
I'm not keeping a list, but if I were, this would be a "life" flower for me, for sure.

The Marsh Blue Violet was sighted during our trip to Cranberry Glades. I plan to tell you all about the very special day we had there in my next post.

Halberd-leaved Violet, Viola hastata
Yet another life flower for me. A halberd is "a two-handed pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 14th and 15th centuries" (thanks, Wikipedia), and the flower is so named due to the supposed resemblance of the its leaves to the weapon. Another common name for it is Spear-leaved Violet

Unfortunately the flowers were just past their prime, so they weren't quite as showy as they probably had been just a few days prior.

Long-spurred Violet, Viola rostrata
Yet another species that was beyond its peak bloom and had begun to fade. I'm sad that I wasn't able to actually capture the spur coming off the back of the flower that gives it its name, but I wanted to share the few images I did get because I still think it's purdy.

You'll notice some very bold lines in the middle of the flower. Those are called nectar guides, and they are the equivalent of an airport runway all lit up, telling bugs and other pollinators where to go to get to the nectar that is housed within. Many flowers have nectar guides, not just violets.

Sweet White Violet, Viola blanda
This is my last specimen. Sweet White's are tiny, and would be dwarfed by the Canada Violet that headlined this post. I heard about another similar violet that was growing on the grounds of Opossum Creek Retreat called Macloskey's Violet, or Northern White Violet (Viola macloskeyi), but my sources tell me that Macloskey's Violet has a green stem, whereas the Sweet White has the pinkish stem that you see here.

As with the Long-spurred Violet pictured earlier, you will notice an ant up inside the flower, assisting with pollination duties. Makes me wonder if ants are a common, perhaps major, pollinator of violets?


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