Flowers we can pick (5) – Common Dog-violet

By Ulrika from Västergötland, Sweden (Skogsviol, Viola riviniana) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Would you really want to pick a violet?  They look so frail and tender to me. They look like they need a helping hand rather than a rough tug. But Plantlife says it’s OK provided we don’t go overboard in our picking.

Who thought of calling them dog violets? What sort of a name is that?

Violets quite often crop up in poetry – here are some examples – but not usually with the word dog attached to them.

I’m not so sure about picking them as this plant is the food plant of a bunch of declining woodland fritillary butterflies – PBF, SPBF, S-WF and HBF.  Maybe we should sit and wait watching our violets until a butterfly comes along, although many of these species are far less likely to come along these days than they were in the past.



4 Replies to “Flowers we can pick (5) – Common Dog-violet”

  1. I’m surprised at the advice that it’s ok to pick these – not that there’s any problem with dog violets, but there are several similar looking species that you’d need to be a botanist to tell apart (I certainly can’t) so how would you know it’s not something rarer that shouldn’t be picked?

  2. “Dog” in a botanical sense means “common”. But I wouldn’t want to pick them either.

  3. Getting commoner over here in Cambs, as the pesky woodland herbivores such as muntjac and rabbit dont seem to like them very much, so our woods have more violet than they used to (and is probably why Silver Washed Fritillary is actually doing very well for itself and spreading every year in eastsern england). I do wonder if plantlife were thinking of Sweet violet, which is less of a lepidoptera foodplant, equally non-grazed and smells a whole lot sweeter…..I do occassionally pick a small bunch of those for the house.

  4. I think it is called a ‘dog’ violet because it lacks scent, unlike the scented sweet violet. ‘Dog’ in plant names seems to mean worthless rather than common (the full English name for this plant is the Common Dog-violet). What use, they might have asked, is a violet without scent? Hence also dog-rose, a scentless rose, unlike the sweet briar or musk-rose; or dog’s mercury, which is toxic and useless, unlike the annual or herb mercury which was of medicinal value.

    As for picking it, it does seem an unfortunate choice, but little bunches of violets were often presented as keepsakes and cheer-me-ups, like Piglet’s attempt to cheer up Eeyore with a bunch in Winnie-the-Pooh.

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