Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) or Marsh Blue Violet (Viola cucullata)
I’m not sure just when I discovered the value of this plant but somewhere along the line it went from most annoying to one of my most valuable assets. Let’s just say, it’s a lot easier to join forces than fight it. Violets love my garden. I used to work up quite a sweat trying to unearth their bulbous roots from my vegetable beds but once I discovered their value, I started doing a lot less weeding. It turned out that if I allied myself with these plants, they did most of the weeding for me, competing with tough weeds like ground ivy and bermudagrass.
Violets distract foragers like deer and rabbits who prefer them to my vegetables. They provide the first pretty blue flowers of spring and protect and build the soil. They are basically indestructible, edible and highly valuable to insects, birds, rabbits, deer and squirrels.
The opportunistic violet spreads by underground rhizomes and seed. It spreads its seeds in several creative ways. One is through flowers that grow close to the ground but never fully open. These flowers shoot seeds out like a cannon. Another way is by ants who find the seed coating delicious. After eating the coating they plant the seed.
I sure am glad I joined forces with the violet. Without it, I and many others would be in a bad way.
A few notes about violets. They transplant well. I’ve found the best way to dig them up is with a garden fork when the soil is moist. To learn more about violets the PennState Extension has some good information on this undervalued plant.