Sunday, May 24, 2015

Violets 2 - Viola spp. - Violettes 2

When I went off to visit with my parents in the upper Gatineau region, I encountered a couple of species of violet that I haven't already talked about in my previous post about violets. So today I'm going to add those species to the list of currently-blooming violets.

Viola labradorica
First up, we have Viola labradorica (aka Viola conspersa, alpine violet), which actually I've been seeing in lawns in Montreal, too. This little pale purple violet is native to eastern North America (US range map here, Canadian range map here), and is threatened in Illinois [1]. It is secure across Canada but sensitive in Prince Edward Island, may be at risk in Saskatchewan, and its status is unknown in Newfoundland and Labrador [2].

Viola labradorica flower
The leaves and flowers of V. labradorica are edible [3]. It is sometimes used in gardens as a ground cover in shaded areas [4].

Viola macloskeyi
Next up we have Viola macloskeyi (northern white violet). This little violet is native to North America and has a very broad range (range map here). It does not have any listed protected status in the US [5]. The species is sensitive in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Alberta, and it may be at risk in Saskatchewan [6]. Its status has not been assessed in Newfoundland and Labrador, and it is secure in the rest of its Canadian range [6].

Viola macloskeyi flower
This species is distinguished from Viola blanda, another white violet, by its scent [7].

One of the things that may jump out at you when looking at my viola photos is that most of them are "bearded" - meaning that they have fine hairs along the inner portions of the petals. So what's that all about?

Well, those fine hairs are there to increase the odds of pollination. While the pollinator is pushing its way up the throat of the flower to get at the nectar in the spur (which extends behind the flower), its body is rubbing over the hairs and the pistil of the flower. Pollen that has already been deposited on the belly of the pollinator will be transferred to the pistil, while pollen from the flower will be spread over its sides and belly to be carried to the next flower.

So those hairs aren't just decoration; they help the flower increase its chances of spreading its genes.

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