Viola pedata

The Bird's Foot Violet

                                                           V.pedata var. pedata                              V.pedata var. lineariloba
photos by W. H. Duncan
courtesy of UGA Herbarium

web page constructed by Melissa Bugbee
July 12, 1998
Link to genus Viola
Link to V. sagittata
Scientific and Common Names:
    The common names of Viola pedata include bird's foot violet, crowfoot violet, and pansy violet (Stupka, 1965).  "Pansy violet" refers to the less common variety of V. pedata, which has two-colored flowers which resemble pansy flowers.   The names "bird's foot" and "crowfoot" violet point to a distinguishing feature of the entire species, the multi-segmented leaves with fingerlike projections.

Higher Taxa:
    The classification of V. pedata is as follows (Zomlefer, 1994):
        Class Angiospermae
            Subclass Dicotyledonae
                Superorder Violanae
                    Order Violales
                        Family Violaceae
                            Genus Viola
                                Species pedata

  V. pedata is often considered one of the most attractive violets.  It has large flowers with large orange stamens and multi-segmented, palmate leaves (see drawing by M. Bugbee).  Two varieties of V.pedata, var. pedata and var. lineariloba can be distinguished by their flowers.  Var. pedata's two upper petals are a darker purple than it's three lower petals.  The petals of var. lineariloba  are all light purple  (Linn, p.18).  See the photographs at the top of the page to see examples of each variety.
    McKinney  (p.17) describes V. pedata as an

    Radford, Ahles, and Bell lay out a key for distinguishing between the Viola species in Guide to the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas.   The original description and specimen of V. pedata are unknown, but McKinney gives a list of representative specimens from states in which the species occurs.

Geography and Distribution:
    Viola pedata occurs throughout the eastern United States.  Var. pedata  ranges from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, and var. lineariloba ranges from Massachusetts to Florida and  westward to Minnesota, Kansas, and Texas (Linn p.18).  The information in the following chart does not distinguish between the two varieties.

Viola pedata
North America: 
Continental United States; Canada
Yes McKinney, 1992
Eastern North America: 
U.S. east of Mississippi; Ontario and eastern Canada
Yes McKinney, 1992
Southeastern United States: 
(not FL)
McKinney, 1992
Southern Appalachian States: 
Yes McKinney, 1992
Coastal Plain Yes Duncan & Kartesz, 1981
Piedmont Yes Duncan & Kartesz, 1981
Blue Ridge Mountains Yes Duncan & Kartesz, 1981
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Yes Stupka, 1965
Ridge and Valley Yes Duncan & Kartesz, 1981
Cumberland Plateau Yes Duncan & Kartesz, 1981
Central Arch Yes McKinney, 1992
Georgia Yes Jones & Coile
Clarke County, Georgia Yes Jones & Coile
Sam's Farm not observed, 
but possible
Melissa Bugbee, pers. obs.
        Old Field No Melissa Bugbee, pers. obs.
        Wetland ?
        Woods not observed, 
but possible
Melissa Bugbee, pers. obs.
         1-Hectare Plot not observed, 
but possible
Melissa Bugbee, pers. obs.
    The green area in the map below shows the range of V. pedata in the United States.  The information used to construct this map was found in McKinney, 1992 and in Jones & Coile.
Natural History:
    V. pedata, as are many of the violets, is subject to hybridization with other sympatric members of the genus.  This violet differs from the other violets known as acaulescent blue violets by its lack of cleistogamous flowers, making it impossible for this species to self-pollinate (McKinney, p. 17).  In fact, this is the only species of violet in North America that does not self-pollinate (Burn, p.62).

Where to Find V. pedata:
    Unlike many violets, V. pedata does not usually grow in heavily wooded areas.  Instead it prefers "dry, sandy, rocky, or clayey banks and open woods" (Grimm, p. 173).    Because of this, these violets can often be found on a hillside or on a roadside.  Blossoms are present mostly between March and June.


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Melissa Bugbee
University of Georgia
Athens, GA