The house that I grew up in had a nice big backyard and front yard with plenty of space to explore. Wildflowers grew in random spots all throughout the yard and wild violets were no exception. Violets in shades of blue, white, and purple happily grew about, spreading every year with bigger and brighter blossoms. There was nothing prettier than a small vase full of fresh picked violets to enjoy in the house.
Best of all, they lasted much longer as a cut flower than other wildflowers, that seemed to fade soon after they were stuck in cold, clear water. Violets can be found in the woodlands and meadows throughout the United States and there are several varieties of the wild violet. The violet has been made the state flower in four states: Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.(1)
Violets have long been famous throughout history. In Greek mythology, the head god Zeus had an affair with Io and to keep his wife Hera from knowing about it, he transformed Io into a cow and whenever she cried, her tears fell onto the grass, turning them into violets, creating a nourishing food for her. Another Greek myth has a boy named Iamus, the son of the god Apollo and a mortal woman, Evadne, who was abandoned in a field of violets and a family of bees looked after him.(2) As a personal name, the violet in Greek is known as Ianthe with several versions of the name including Iantha and Ianthina.(3)
In French history, violet perfume was the favorite of Josephine Bonaparte(4) and her husband also loved the flower well enough to be known as “Corporal Violet” during the rule of the Bonapartes in France.(5) The violet has also been the subject of poems, with famous poets such as Robert Browning and William Cullen Bryant mentioning these beautiful little flowers.
The violet is the flower for the month of February(6), which makes sense as it is the traditional flower for Valentine’s Day. As a symbol, the violet represents humility, faithfulness, modesty and virtue, making it a perfect flower for that one special holiday of the year when it is time for sweethearts to exchange cards, flowers, candy, and spend quality time with each other. For women, the violet is a symbol of good luck and dreaming about violets usually means an ability to achieve and succeed at one’s personal ambitions.(7)
The violet is not only beautiful but also practical, for the flowers and leaves are edible and can be used in salads, jams and jellies, candies, and tea. The flower is high in vitamins A and C, making it a nutritious flower to consume.(8) Culpepper’s Herbal states that the violet is beneficial for human consumption and has a natural connection to the planet Venus.(9)
Even though the violet may be seen as a weed that can invade lawns, as a flower it is still appreciated by many.