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HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Viola alba

Viola alba

The white violet (Viola alba Besser) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Violaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Violal Order,
Violaceae family,
Genus Viola,
Species V. alba.
This species includes some subspecies among which are mentioned:
– Viola alba Besser subsp. alba;
– Viola alba Besser subsp. dehnhardtii (Ten.) W.Becker;
– Viola alba subsp. scotophylla (Jord.) Nyman.
The terms are synonyms:
– Viola alba var. scotophyllodes Wiesb.;
– Viola alba var. scotophyllodes Wiesb. ex Dichtl;
– Viola alba var. vinealis (Boreau) Rouy & Foucaud, 1896;
– Viola albiflora Kirschl., 1840;
– Viola dehnhardtii var. albiflora W.Becker;
– Viola esterelensis Chanay & Millière, 1879;
– Viola hirta subsp. ausonensis Sennen;
– Viola hirta var. picta Moggr..
– Viola tarnensis Sudre, 1902.

Etymology –
The term Viola comes from the Latin viola, which indicated both the sweet violet and the wallflower and other cruciferous vegetables; word perhaps of Mediterranean origin connected with the Greek ἴον íon viola.
The specific alba epithet comes from albus, white, in reference to the color of the flowers.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The white violet is a plant with an area of origin that can be identified from southern France to southern Poland and northwest, up to Turkey.
It is therefore an entity with an area centered on the Mediterranean coasts, but with extensions to the north and east in correspondence with the area where the vine grows.
Its habitat is that of grassy places, on the edge and in clear woods, clearings, hedges, where it grows in the altimetric range between 0 and 1000 meters above sea level.

Description –
Viola alba is a perennial herbaceous plant, more or less hairy, with dimensions varying between 5 and 15 cm.
The epigeal stolons are elongated, thin, already flowered in the first year, and emit roots in the second (which however are often absent in the subsp. dehnhardtii).
The leaves are all in a basal rosette, petiolate, linear lanceolate stipules, ciliate, with an ovate lamina, rounded or pointed at the apex, toothed margin.
Winter leaves are darker, often purplish underneath, light green in summer.
The flowers are perfumed, all basal, carried by a peduncle which carries two bracts in the middle or more; they have sepals 5, oval; the corolla is 1.5-2 cm in diameter, zygomorphic, there are 5 petals, with the lower one extended into a spur (nectary); the color of the flowers varies from white to purplish with a series of shades in between.
The anthesis is between January and April, also depending on latitude and altitude.
The fruit is a more or less pubescent capsule.

Cultivation –
White violet is a perennial plant that grows mainly in temperate climates.
This species reproduces both sexually (with recombination of characters) and vegetatively (without recombination).
Generally, with the beginning of the warm season, the plants stop flowering, stimulating the production of seeds and concluding the vegetative cycle.
The larger flowers carried upwards are pollinated by insects, while the smaller flowers, located at the bottom, never open (cleistogamy) and carry out self-pollination. The seeds, which in this case have a genetic makeup similar to that of the plant that originates them, fall and germinate near the mother plant. Furthermore, stolons may be present, modifications of stems which implement vegetative multiplication and give rise to new plants genetically identical to the mother plant.
Locally some cultivate this plant for ornamental purposes; others pick violets to decorate salads.

Customs and Traditions –
Viola alba is part of a large genus that includes over 400 annual or perennial and also suffruticose herbaceous species, 10 to 20 cm tall, with spring blooms, in various colors and corollas with a characteristic shape.
This species grows wild where in some localities it is harvested to decorate salads.
In other areas it is also cultivated for ornamental purposes.
Among the similar species we remember the Viola odorata from which it is distinguished by the largely oval stipules and the rounded leaves.

Method of Preparation –
The Viola alba is a plain with a pleasant appearance that has no food interest even if in some areas it is collected as a decoration for dishes and salads.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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