In the gloom of a dark Autumn Morning an unexpected gem glows along the trail side. Spring has arrived within the late Autumn Forest. Small and delicate Bird-Foot Violets are blooming. Tiny ghosts of seasons past. Petals spread like wings as if to take flight from the Forest floor.
Camera: Sony Alpha 55
Autumn/December 10 2010
The Bird’s-Foot Violets on the Dead Chief Trail in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. The first I seen on this Trail in the year I have been hiking in the park.
Viola pedata (Birdsfoot violet, Bird’s-foot violet) is an ornamental plant in the Violaceae family.
Bird-foot Violet grows in dry fields, clearings in woods, and roadsides.
Leaves grow up to two inches long and are fan-shaped with three lobes (finger-like parts). Each lobe has small teeth on the edges. The petioles (leaf stems) can grow to six inches long.
Bird-foot flowers are usually bluish, but can range from white to purple. Each flower has five petals. Flowers are larger than those on most other violets. They bloom from March to June. Bird-foot Violets are perrennial, meaning they don’t die in Winter.
These plants spread by rhizomes, underground stems that grow sideways. Rhizomes can send up new stems to make new plants.
Because of the way rhizomes spread, if you see one violet, you will usually see many. The rhizomes make “colonies” of many plants.
Bird-foot Violet fruits are small capsules, up to nine millimeters long, full of small seeds. Seeds are eaten by birds, including Mourning Dove, Northern Bobwhite, Wild Turkey, and Dark-eyed Junco. White-footed Mice also eat seeds.
Leaves and stems are eaten by rabbits.
Bird-foot Violet, and other violets, are used by some butterflies as host plants. Butterflies, such as the Great Spangled Fritillary, lay their eggs on the plant stems. When caterpillars hatch, they immediately start eating the violet’s leaves.