The wood violet (Viola odorata L., 1753) is a herbaceous species of the Violaceae family.
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, United Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Subclass Dilleniidae, Violales Order, Violaceae Family and therefore to the Genus Viola and the Species V. odorata.
The term Viola comes from the Greek ἴον íon viola, from an ancient ϝίον fíon with the same meaning.
The specific epithet odorata comes from odóro esalare perfume: odorous, perfumed, with a pleasant smell.
Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
The violet is a species native to southern Europe where it is present in almost all the territory from 0 to 1200 m. In Italy it is a very common species, distributed throughout the territory. This species has also been introduced in America and Australasia.
Its habitat is represented by the grassy and uncultivated places, wooded edges, hedges, meadows; often grown in gardens and run wild.
Viola odorata is a perennial, acaule, pubescent herbaceous species that reaches a height of 10-15 cm.
It has a relatively large rhizome, with subtle underground stolons and aerial stolons, rooting at the nodes, elongated, creeping, floriferous in the second year.
The leaves are all basal, in rosette, of dark-bluish-green, largely ovate-corded or reniform, obtuse and crenulated, with maximum width at the middle and deep basal inlet, provided with lanceolate-oval stipules, 4-5 mm wide, with short gland fringes.
The flowers are zygomorphic pentamers, typically fragrant, of 15-20 mm, with calyx with obtuse oval sepals, extended posteriorly in appendices; the corolla is deep purple, rarely pink or white, with a straight spur of the same color (about 6 mm); the side petals are folded down and close to the smaller bottom.
Flowering occurs in late winter or early spring when winter is coming to an end.
The fruits are subglobose loculicide capsules, with three valves.
The wood violet is a plant of easy cultivation that grows well in damp and shady soils and also propagates by means of stolons.
For the cultivation technique, see the following sheet.
Uses and Traditions –
Viola odorata is a medicinal and medicinal herb.
It is a species that is not easy to identify also due to the possibility of interspecific hybridization. Some species that could cause doubtful determinations in a similar environment are:
– V. alba Besser: theoretically not confusable with V. odorata for color, in reality, due to the chromatic variability that both species can present, it can give difficulties; acaule plant, it has no underground stolons, while the epigean stolons are already floriferous in the first year; the leaves, although similar in shape and color, are acute and purplish on the lower side (above all at the wintering stage); the stipules are acute fringed and slightly ciliate; if the corolla, slightly odorous, is not decidedly white, it has a pale violet-celestine color; of this species there are two subspecific entities;
– V. hirta L .: acaule, without stolons, hairy; leaves (up to 8 cm) long petiolate, lanceolate ciliate stipules; odorless, with often hairy flowers, violet-reddish spur curved upwards; hairy capsule;
– V. riviniana Rchb .: with basal rosette and relatively large, celestial-violet flowers inserted on the stem, with a thick, short, whitish or light blue spur, lighter than the corolla; sharp sepals; basal reniform leaves, lanceolate stipules with comb-toothed fringes;
– V. reichenbachiana Jord. ex Boreau (= V. sylvestris Lam. pp): basal rosette, like the previous one, and subglabic flowering stems up to 25-30 cm long, subacute heart-shaped leaves, lanceolate stipules with long eyelashes, odorless violet corolla, with thin dark violet spur ; acute sepals;
– V. canina L .: without basal rosette, with glabrous floriferous stems originating directly from the rhizome, leaf blade longer than wide, subacute and petiole of double length, lanceolate dentate stipules; corolla odorless light blue, sometimes yellowish-white, with rather long (6-8 mm) whitish or yellowish spur; hairless capsule; calcifuge.
Leaves, flowers and rhizomes are used in this plant.
While the roots have an emetic effect, the infusion of flowers has bechic and expectorant properties. The leaves have a mild laxative effect.
Decoction leaves have mild laxative properties.
The flowers, used for infusions and syrups, generally possess anti-inflammatory and depurative qualities and are considered one of the best remedies for bronchitis, pleurisy, cough and phlegm.
The roots are used for expectorant decoctions and as a laxative.
However, Viola odorata is also cultivated to embellish gardens and potted plants.
The active ingredients of Viola are: mucilage, emetine, irone, salicylic acid, glucoside and violet essence, saponins, carotenoids, tannins, flavonoids, gaulterin.
This plant, in the herbalist field, is used for its emollient and expectorant properties and is useful in cases of catarrhal diseases of the respiratory tract and, more rarely, as a laxative in pediatrics. In particular, flowers are the main ingredient of the “violet syrup”. The rhizome is rich in starch and mucilage, contains violin, with expectorant and emetic action at high doses. The leaves are traditionally used in the treatment of cystitis and as a mouthwash for infections of the mouth and throat.
The Viola odorata is used for external use in decoction on bruises and burns.
In the cosmetics sector the essence of violet is used for the preparation of perfumes.
Preparation Mode –
The flowers of this plant should be collected as soon as they appear, early in the morning, on a sunny and windless day, and they should be dried in a cool, dry room and stored in tightly closed wooden boxes. If the flowers are collected to obtain the essential oil, they must be used as soon as they are picked so that they do not lose their fragrance and freshness. For the extraction it is possible to apply the cold process – enfleurage à froid, or the hot maceration in fat or cold in the oil or, in particular for the leaves, the distillation.
For internal use: in cases of cough and irritation of the airways.
You can prepare the infusion: in this case you have to put 2 g of violet flowers in 100 ml of boiling water and let it infuse for at least 15 minutes. This should be drunk sweetening it with a little honey.
If you want to prepare a violet tea, collect the flowers during the maximum odor phase, then dry them thoroughly and quickly. At this point, infuse a quantity of dried flowers to taste, according to individual tastes, in warm water. We must then let it rest a little and filter. Sugar, add a few petals an appearance of orange peel.
For the preparation of Viola syrup, 10 g of flowers must be soaked for 24 hours with 100 ml of water. Strain, add 200 g of sugar and cook slowly for 15 minutes.
For external use: in the case of bruises and burns.
A decoction can be prepared with 5 g of flowers in 100 ml of water. Wash and apply decoction soaked tablets on the affected area.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is assumed for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.