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Edible uses


Young leaves and flower buds - raw or cooked[1][2][3]. Usually available all through the winter[K]. The leaves have a very mild flavour, though they soon become quite tough as they grow older. They make a very good salad, their mild flavour enabling them to be used in bulk whilst other stronger-tasting leaves can then be added to give more flavour[K]. When added to soup they thicken it in much the same way as okra[4][2][5]. Also used as a flavouring in puddings etc.

A tea can be made from the leaves[2]. Flowers - raw. Used to decorate salads and desserts[6][7][2]. A sweet mild flavour with a delicate perfume, the flowers are an especially welcome decoration for the salad bowl since they are available in late winter[K]. The flowers are also used fresh to flavour and colour confectionery[8]. A soothing tea can be made from the leaves and flowers[2][3].

A leaf extract is used to flavour sweets, baked goods and ice cream[3].

Unknown part



Material uses

An essential oil from the flowers and leaves is used in perfumery[9][10]. 1000kg of leaves produces about 300 - 400g absolute[11].

The flowers are used to flavour breath fresheners[8]. A pigment extracted from the flowers is used as a litmus to test for acids and alkalines[12][13][10][14].

Plants can be grown as a ground cover when spaced about 30cm apart each way[15]. They make an effective weed-excluding cover[K].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Sweet violet has a long and proven history of folk use, especially in the treatment of cancer and whooping cough[12][16][17]. It also contains salicylic acid, which is used to make aspirin[18]. It is therefore effective in the treatment of headaches, migraine and insomnia[18].

The whole plant is anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, and laxative[12][19][1][11][16]. It is taken internally in the treatment of bronchitis, respiratory catarrh, coughs, asthma, and cancer of the breast, lungs or digestive tract[8]. Externally, it is used to treat mouth and throat infections[8]. The plant can either be used fresh, or harvested when it comes into flower and then be dried for later use[12]. The flowers are demulcent and emollient[20]. They are used in the treatment of biliousness and lung troubles[20]. The petals are made into a syrup and used in the treatment of infantile disorders[20]. The roots is a much stronger expectorant than other parts of the plant but they also contain the alkaloid violine which at higher doses is strongly emetic and purgative[12][18][21]. They are gathered in the autumn and dried for later use[19]. The seeds are diuretic and purgative. They have been used in the treatment of urinary complaints are considered to be a good remedy for gravel[12]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the whole fresh plant[12]. It is considered useful in the treatment of spasmodic coughs and rheumatism of the wrist[12].

An essential oil from the flowers is used in aromatherapy in the treatment of bronchial complaints, exhaustion and skin complaints[8].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Soil surface

Ecological Functions

Ground cover


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - best sown in the autumn in a cold frame. The seed requires a period of cold stratification and the germination of stored seed can be erratic. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Division in the autumn or just after flowering. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, though we have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Viola odorata. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Succeeds in most soils but prefers a cool moist well-drained humus-rich soil in partial or dappled shade and protection from scorching winds[22][23][24][25]. When grown in the open it prefers a moderately heavy rich soil[22]. Plants have done very well in a hot dry sunny position on our Cornish trial grounds[K]. Tolerates sandstone and limestone soils.

Plants are hardy to about -20°c[26]. Sweet violets are very ornamental plants, there are many named varieties[26]. They produce their delicately scented flowers in late winter and early spring - these are designed for fertilisation by bees and since there are few bees around at this time of year these flowers seldom set seed[12]. However, the plants also produce a second type of flower later in the year. These never open, but seed is produced within them by self-fertilization[12]. The plants will often self-sow freely when well-sited[27]. They can also spread fairly rapidly at the roots when they are growing well[K]. Responds well to an annual replanting in rich loose leafy soils[26].

All members of this genus have more or less edible leaves and flower buds, though those species with yellow flowers can cause diarrhoea if eaten in large quantities[4][2][5].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Viola odorata. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Viola odorata.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Viola odorata
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type

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    "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.


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    2. ? Harrington. H. D. Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains. University of New Mexico Press ISBN 0-8623-0343-9 (1967-00-00)
    3. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
    4. ? Elias. T. and Dykeman. P. A Field Guide to N. American Edible Wild Plants. Van Nostrand Reinhold ISBN 0442222009 (1982-00-00)
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    13. ? 13.013.1 Triska. Dr. Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-33545-3 (1975-00-00)
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    15. ? 15.015.1 Thomas. G. S. Plants for Ground Cover J. M. Dent & Sons ISBN 0-460-12609-1 (1990-00-00)
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    24. ? Brown. Shade Plants for Garden and Woodland. ()
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    26. ? Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Perennials Volumes 1 and 2. Pan Books ISBN 0-330-30936-9 (1991-00-00)
    27. ? Brickell. C. The RHS Gardener's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-86318-386-7 (1990-00-00)
    28. ? Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press (1962-00-00)

    "image:Viole.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.