Viola reichenbachiana, The Early Dog Violet

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)There are three little violet flowers called Dog Violets in the UK, they are the Early Dog Violet, The Common Dog Violet and the less common Heath Dog Violet. They can all hybridise and so telling them apart isn’t always easy but they do each have distinctive characteristics.

As it’s name suggests the Early Dog Violet flowers first, about three weeks before the common one. I took this next picture on March 16th and as you can see the flowers were already well established.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)I didn’t see a Common Dog Violet last year until March 30th, so if you see a Dog Violet early in March it is probably this one but you don’t have to guess.

The Dog Violet has a spur behind the flower and with the other two species the spur is lighter than the petals. The Spur on the Early Dog Violet is darker than the petals.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)For comparison this next picture is a Common Dog Violet with a much lighter spur and the Heath Dog Violet is also lighter and quite yellow.

Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana)The other easy to spot difference is with the markings on the lower petal. These lines serve to direct insects to the nectar and they are much less pronounced on the Early Dog Violet.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Again for comparison this next picture is a Common Dog Violet, The Heath Dog Violet is vividly marked like this too.

Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana)Okay the difference is relative and not always easy to spot if you don’t have another flower to compare with but bright, intense markings would immediately make me look at the spur.

The Early Dog Violet,  Viola reichenbachiana.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)V. reichenbachiana is a bit of a mouthful. It is named after a German Botanist, Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach, who specialised in Orchids. He has actually got about a dozen different flowers named after him but someone must have felt that he needed a Violet.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Violets have a complicated reproductive strategy that isn’t really relevant to identifying the flower but it still makes for an interesting read. The best explanation that I have found on the web is here.

http://cronodon.com/BioTech/violaceae.html

That article goes some way to explaining why the inside of a violet looks like this.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Basically the Violet has two different types of flower. The open flowers that we are familiar with are specially designed to achieve cross pollination.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Violets are hermaphrodite and capable of self fertilisation but the open flowers are carefully designed to avoid that, however the majority of seed produced is self pollinated. To achieve this the Violet produces another sort of flower. These are small flowers that will never open, they are self fertile. They appear as the plant matures and they are actually responsible for most of the seed production.

11The plant seems to go to a lot of trouble to try and cross pollinate when it doesn’t really have to but it is thought that even a small amount of cross pollination benefits the gene pool.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Early Dog Violet has a long stem bearing a single flower.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)The leaves are heart shaped with finely scalloped edges.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana) Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)   Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)   Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)It grows in shady woodlands, hedgerows and coppice. It is native to the UK, more common in the South and almost absent from Scotland.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Malpighiales

Family: Violaceae

Genus: Viola

Species: Viola reichenbachiana

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Back to Violet Wildflowers

Back to the start

 

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6 thoughts on “Viola reichenbachiana, The Early Dog Violet”

    1. Thank you Emily 🙂 I am not certain. The closed flower and leaf picture that follows the description was the best photograph that I could find but I didn’t follow that through to make sure that the flower wasn’t going to open. I will get better pictures of seed development in a few moths. It is amazing what I forgot to photograph last year. The tiny flowers are just ordinary small flowers that never open up.

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