Saturday, January 5, 2019

Roses are red, violets are yellow?

Viola biflora at the Reykjavik Botanic Garden in Iceland in late June
So "Violets are blue" eh? Poets do take their liberties. I was recently thinking about how amazing it is that the Universal yellow violet of Eurasia is pretty much restricted to the boreal parts of America, except for Colorado, as you will see. Above it makes a heck of a mound in a botanical garden...

Viola biflora at Brunquist Gulch 20 miles West of Denver
Here it is at an amazingly low altitude not far from Denver in Denver Mountain Parks. I have featured this locality in a past blog.

Range of Viola biflora in the USA from a BONAP map
Here is the overall range map according to the US Government...which has unconscionably been shut down by the Narcissist-in-chief inflicting suffering and grief on nearly a million of my fellow Americans in order to build a hideous, ecologically disastrous and symbolically repugnant wall: I HATE IT, but I digress... I can't help but wonder if there aren't a few Viola biflora lurking in Idaho or Wyoming!
Viola biflora on the Austrian Road, far easternmost Kazakhstan

And here it is in Central Asia--another of those links between Colorado and the Altai that William Weber first limned.
Viola sheltonii: short lived in my garden
I have never seen this in Colorado, although Dan Johnson did last year and photographed it. High on my Bucket List for the last Colorado wildflowers that have eluded me. I grew it from seed and bloomed it--but it only lasted one year.

Viola pensylvanica in Kentucky
Here's the commonest yellow violet of the East: apparently this can be weedy in some gardens. It has grown for me but I'm still waiting for seedlings: I think it's lovely

Viola nuttallii on the Flattop Mt. in western Colorado at 11,000'
By far our commonest native violet, this is found all over the Great Plains, the foothills and I've seen it all the way to timberline. These were taken on subalpine roadcuts in Western Colorado a few years ago.
Closeup of same

Viola atropurpurea
Surely the silliest name for a violet--named for the purple color on the undersurface of the leaf, in my home state, this is restricted to Northwestern Colorado where I photographed this years ago. But it's common throughout much of the West. Chary of gardens I've found thus far.

And there are so many more--especially pansies from Europe and Asia that often come in yellow....dozens of species really--but they're another story to be told another time:

Roses are red
Violets are yellow
I'll be pleased as Punch
when we're done with that fellow.


  1. Your poem is the best!

    I never thought of it before but here where I hunt plants in the San Gabriel Mts near Los Angeles all the mountain violets are yellow - douglasii, pedunculata, pinetorum, even purpurea(!), and one white one macloskeyi.

    1. and the latter I have enjoyed int he tamarack fen near our Wisconsin home!

  2. My state's native Viola pubescens makes it too Colorado too.

  3. Had no idea there were so many!

  4. Good to see bright yellow this time of year.
    I like your poem too.

  5. James: I checked BONAP ( and the nearest I can see a record occurring near Colorado is in Nebraska, easily 100 miles away! But I wouldn't be surprised if it were found in one of our foothill's canyons one day.

  6. May I humbly offer this correction, the last photo of a yellow Viola species is Viola purpurea, a species found in 10 Western US States and in British Columbia, Canada, composed of 7 varieties. Calphotos web site has many photos, some showing the purple backs to the flowers to indicate why the epithet "purpurea" was given.

    Viola atropurpurea is one of the fabulous rosulate violet species of South America, here's a photo of flowering rosettes in Central Chile an about 2500 meters, aptly named with those dark purple flowers with frilly beards. Here's a link (the link might wordwrap, copy-&-paste whole thing into a browser):


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