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.
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.
The 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.
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.
That article goes some way to explaining why the inside of a violet looks like this.
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.
Species: Viola reichenbachiana