Viola sagittata

The Arrow Leafed Violet
V. sagitatta
photo by W.H. Duncan
courtesy of UGA Herbarium

web page constructed by Melissa Bugbee
July 12, 1998
link to genus Viola
link to species V. pedata


Scientific and Common Names:
    V. sagittata is known by the common name arrow leafed violet, which refers to its distinctively shaped leaves (Stupka, p. 68).
Higher Taxa:
    The classification of V. sagittata is as follows (Zomlefer, 1994):
        Class Angiospermae
            Subclass Dicotyledonae
                Superorder Violanae
                    Order Violales
                        Family Violaceae
                            Genus Viola
                                Species sagittata

  V. sagittata has narrow elongate leaves (1.5 to 4 inches long) that are shaped like arrows (see drawing - by M. Bugbee).  The base of the leaf typically has a lobe or a spur.  Sagittata's flowers are purple with a white center and on long stems which grow from a common rootstock with the leaves (Grimm, p.174).
    McKinney describes V. sagittata as an

    He also gives the following  key to distinguish between two varieties of V. sagittata, var. sagittata and var. ovata. Radford, Ahles, and Bell give a key for distinguishing between the regional Viola species in Guide to the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas , p.234-236.
    V. sagittata was  first described in 1818 and was identified in 1826 as V. emarginata by Leconte whose specimen is in Lyceum Natural History, New York.  McKinney gives this information and a list of representative specimens from each state where sagittata occurs.

Geography and Distribution:
     V. sagittata ranges from Massachusetts to Minnesota and south to Georgia and Texas (Grimm, p. 174) .  Var. sagittata occurs more along the southern and western portion of this area, while var. ovata occurs mainly in the Appalachians and along the northeastern coast (McKinney, p. 55).  The following table does not distinguish between the two varieties.

Viola sagittata
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: 
Yes 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 Duncan & Kartesz, 1981
Georgia Yes Duncan & Kartesz, 1981
Clarke County, Georgia Yes Jones & Coile
Sam's Farm No Melissa Bugbee, pers.ob.
        Old Field No Melissa Bugbee,pers.ob
        Wetland ?, probably 
        Woods No Melissa Bugbee, pers. ob.
         1-Hectare Plot No Melissa Bugbee, pers. ob.
The map below shows the range of V. sagittata in the United States.  The blue region contains var. ovata.  The yellow region contains var. sagittata.  The purple regions contains both varieties.  The information used to construct this map was found in McKinney, 1992 and in Jones & Coile.
Natural History:
    Many of the violet species hybridize with one another, which often makes them difficult to recognize and classify.  V. sagittata is particularly prone to hybridization, which has led to many mistakes in its identification (McKinney, p 24).
After normal early flowering has occured in V. sagittata, a later round of cleistogamous flowers appears.  These flowers are small and bud-like, and they can self-pollinate and form seed capsules (Zomlefer, p113).

Where to find V. sagittata:
    V. sagittata does not seem to be very common south of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains.  The plant likes to grow on "moist banks and in fields and upland woods" (Grimm, p.174).  The flowers bloom from March to June.


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Melissa Bugbee
University of Georgia
Athens, GA