Bird's-foot violet has flowers about 1 inch across. The species has two color phases: either all 5 petals pale lilac or lavender, or the upper 2 petals deep velvety purple and the 3 lower petals pale lilac to lavender. Additionally, you might encounter rare color patterns such as all-white, or white with combinations of the above. The center of the united stamens is always deep orange. Blooms April–June. The leaves are deeply dissected “like a bird’s foot.” Leaves developing later in the season have somewhat wider, straplike segments.
This is one of 17 species of violets (genus Viola in Missouri. To learn more about Missouri's violets as a group, visit their group page.
Height: to 6 inches.
Habitat and Conservation
Occurs on rocky, well-drained, usually acid soils of open woods, road embankments, glades, bluffs, and ridges. Appreciates disturbed areas with perfect drainage but cannot survive the later intrusion of competing plants.
Native Missouri wildflower. Considered the queen of eastern North American violets.
Though it can be difficult to supply the dry, sunny sites bird's-foot violet requires, this species can be used in home gardening. This species does not survive well if transplanted from natural habitats. Always purchase your native wildflowers from a responsible dealer!
This species is an excellent nectar plant for butterflies, and some butterflies, particularly the fritillaries, use the foliage of violets as their caterpillars' food plant.
The cobweb skipper is a single-brooded grass skipper that flies only from mid-April into May. The adults love to nectar at bird’s-foot violet, which starts blooming on Ozark glades in April. Cobweb skipper caterpillars eat big bluestem grass, which is also common in Ozark glades.