I never knew, until I moved into this house with its overgrown lawn, that there were different types of violets. I had encountered the common blues and whites before in countless places. I thought that they accounted for all of violetdom. But here in this weedy, neglected lawn I found other, strange violets. Some tiny, some pale, even some hairy! I looked them up online to see what they were called, and I was surprised and pleased to discover that there are in fact many species of violets, most of which I have yet to see.
But I was also dismayed, because there are so many types, some very similar, that I will probably never be sure that I have identified mine properly. Indeed, I came across some very learned discussions (all well over my head) about whether some types were truly separate species, and how hybridization could make identification even more difficult, etc. It was so complicated that I just had to tune most of it out and take my best guess.
So let me introduce you to one of my strange violets and tell you what type I think it is. The picture below is of a flower I call a “hairy violet.” I believe it is more commonly known as a “northern downy violet.”
As far as I can tell, there are two major differences between the northern downy violet and the common blue violet. The first is that it’s hairy. Very hairy.
The other notable thing about this variety of violet is the shape of its leaves. They’re not heart-shaped, but rather oval, sometimes coming to a point at the end. The first time I saw one of these flowers, its pointy leaves nearly convinced me that it wasn’t a real violet!
Now for one more picture. I’m not sure if this also a northern downy violet, but it sure is cute and hairy.