Violets, also known as pansies and heartsease, are flowers in the genus Viola and family Violaceae. There are 400+ species distributed around the world with most being found in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. A few are also found in the Andes of South America, Australasia, and Hawaii. Violets typically are small and have heart-shaped scalloped leaves but some have palmate leaves or other shapes. The vast majority of violets are herbaceous, but a few are small shrubs, and most are perennial.
Their flowers consist of five petals, four fan-shaped petals with two per side and one broad, lobed lower petal pointing downward which often has a spur. The flower color of violets is most commonly violet or blue but also can be yellow, white, or cream, and some are bicolored, often blue and yellow. Most violets are spring blooming and pollinated by insects, but many species also have closed forms in which the flowers lack petals, do not open, and are self pollinating. These closed form individuals flower in the summer and fall. After flowering, fruit capsules are produced that split open by way of three valves and the seeds are often spread by ants.
Violets are common bedding and pot plants worldwide where they are commonly referred to as “violas” by gardeners. There are literally hundreds of cultivars that have been developed. The modern garden pansy, for example, is a plant of complex hybrid origin involving at least three species. In 2005 in the U.S., violas, including pansies, were one of the top three bedding plant crops, producing $111 million for the bedding flower market. Violets also have culinary uses. The flowers are used to decorate salads and are used in stuffings and desserts, while the leaves are used raw or cooked as a leaf vegetable. The flowers, leaves, and roots are used for medicinal purposes too, being high in vitamins A and C, and containing a type of antioxidant called anthocyanin. Recent research has detected a natural aspirin in violets which substantiates its use for centuries as a remedy for headache, body pains, and as a sedative. It also has other constituents that show promise for the treatment of cancer, AIDs, and much more. One species, the Sweet Violet, is used for a source of scents in the perfume industry.
Blue violets have symbolized “faithfulness” since medieval times. The Bible tells us that the Lord is faithful! His great faithfulness extends to the clouds and endures to all generations. “Thy mercy, O Lord, [is] in the heavens; [and] thy faithfulness [reacheth] unto the clouds.” Psalm 36:5. “Thy faithfulness [is] unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.” Psalm 119:90. “Great [is] thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:23. “The Lord calls upon us for confession of His goodness. … Our confession of His faithfulness is Heaven’s chosen agency for revealing Christ to the world. We are to acknowledge His grace as made known through the holy men of old; but that which will be most effectual is the testimony of our own experience. We are witnesses for God as we reveal in ourselves the working of a power that is divine. Every individual has a life distinct from all others, and an experience differing essentially from theirs. God desires that our praise shall ascend to Him, marked by our own individuality. These precious acknowledgements to the praise of the glory of His grace, when supported by a Christlike life, have an irresistible power that works for the salvation of souls.” God’s Amazing Grace, 277.
David Arbour writes from his home in De Queen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.