Canada Violet
Viola canadensis L.
Family: Violaceae, Violet
Genus: Viola
Other names: Canadian white violet
Nomenclature: canadensis = of Canada
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Edible plant
Medicinal plant
Poisonous plant

General: perennial with short, thick rootstocks and often with slender stolons. Stems 10-40 cm tall, hairless to short-hairy.

Leaves: basal and alternate, the stalks as much as 30 cm long. Leaf blades cordate, abruptly pointed, about 4-8 cm long, from (usually) short-hairy on one or both surfaces to hairless. Stipules lanceolate, 1-2 cm long, entire, hairless to hairy on the edges only.

Flowers: one to few from the upper portion of the stem, the stalks shorter than the leaves. The 5 sepals lanceolate, often short-hairy and with hairy edges, the spur short. The 5 petals about 1.5 cm long, white to pinkish, yellow-based, the 3 lower ones purplish-lined, the side bearded, all (but especially the upper pair) more or less purplish-tinged on the outside and sometimes less conspicuously so on the inside. Style head sparsely long-bearded. May-July.

Fruits: capsules, 4-5 mm long, granular on the surface to short-hairy, with 3 valves, splitting open explosively and shooting out seeds, the seeds brownish.


In moist woodland and forest, usually on loamy soil, in w., c. and some e. parts of MT. Also from s. AK and B.C. throughout WA and OR, e. to the Atlantic coast and s. in the Rocky Mts. to NM and AZ.
var. rugulosa:
Edible Uses

All violets are edible. The leaves and flowers can be eaten raw in salads, used as potherbs or thickeners, or made into tea. Violets are high in vitamins A and C. The flowers can be used as a garnish (fresh or candied) or as a flavoring and coloring in vinegar, jelly and syrup. Having a very mild flavor, when boiled as greens, the leaves of Canada violet are best mixed with other stronger tasting leaves. When added to soup they thicken it in much the same way as okra.

Medicinal Uses

Canada violet was used medicinally by the Ojibwa Indians. A tea made from the roots was used in the treatment of pain in the bladder region. The roots and leaves have traditionally been used to induce vomiting, they have also been poulticed and applied to skin abrasions and boils.

Poisonous Properties

The rhizomes, fruits and seeds are poisonous, causing severe stomach and intestinal upset, as well as nervousness and respiratory and circulatory depression.

Sub taxa:

var. canadensis L.:
Stolons lacking. Plants hairless to short-hairy. Leaves usually longer than broad, not hairy on the edges. In c. and e. U.S. and Canada, extending w., occasionally to the Rocky Mts., from Alberta to NM, also in AZ.

var. rugulosa (Greene) C. L. Hitchc.:
Stolons present but often buried and not obvious. Plants short-hairy. Leaves often wider than long, short-hairy on the edges. From AK to OR and through the Rocky Mts. to CO, e. occasionally to c. U.S. and the southern Appalachians.

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