downy yellow violet

(Viola pubescens)

downy yellow violet (var. pubescens)

Downy yellow violet is common spring wildflower. It occurs in the United States and southern Canada east of the Great Plains. It is found in a variety of habitats, including deciduous, coniferous, and mixed woodlands, woodland edges, thickets, meadows, prairies, swamps, marshes, and floodplains. It is sometimes found in old fields and on roadsides, but it is much less likely to be found in disturbed areas than common blue violet. It grows under full to partial sun in moist to moderatley moist, loamy soil.


Downy yellow violet is often used in gardens as an ornamental. It has also been used medicinally to treat respiratory ailments, headaches, and digestive issues.


Downy yellow violet typically grows to a height of 10-25 cm (4-10 in). It has a shallow, fibrous root system.

The stem is usually hairless and may be green or purplish in color. The stem grows upright or at an angle from a short, underground stem (rhizome).

The leaves are heart-shaped, with a rounded base and a pointed tip. They are typically 2-10 cm (0.8-4 in) long and 2-8 cm (0.8-3.2 in) wide. They are covered in fine hairs, which give them a downy appearance. The leaf margins are usually toothed or slightly lobed.

Downy yellow violet produces showy, bright yellow flowers from March to May. The flowers are borne on individual stalks that arise from the leaf axils. Each flower has five petals. Each petal is 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 in) long and is widest near the base. Non-opening, self-polinating (cleistogamous) flowers are produced in summer and fall.


Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Malpighiales (nances, willows, and allies)  


Violaceae (violet)  
  Subfamily Violoideae  
  Tribe Violeae  
  Genus Viola (violets)  
  Subgenus Viola (pansies and violets)  
  Section Chamaemelanium  
  Subsection Nudicaules  

Subordinate Taxa


downy yellow violet (Viola pubescens var. pubescens)

Peck’s yellow violet (Viola pubescens var. peckii)

smooth yellow violet (Viola pubescens var. scabriuscula)


Most authors recognize two varieties of Viola pubescens based on the number of basal leaves and on the hairiness of the leaves, leaf stalks, and flower stalks. Some sources classify the less hairy form var. scabriuscula as the separate species Viola eriocarpa. However, where the two forms occur together they freely cross-pollinate, creating offspring with intermediate characteristics. For this reason it does not deserve recognition as a separate species.

Some sources recognize a third variety, var. peckii, based on darker foliage and hairless seed capsules. However, these occur throughout the range of the species. They are treated by most authors as a population-level divergence not worthy of formal taxonomic recognition.






Common Names


downy yellow violet

yellow violet

yellow forest violet












A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.




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Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens)
Andree Reno Sanborn

  Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens)  



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