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Violet Family (Violaceae) - Species Native To North America, Ornamental Violets, Other Uses Of Violets

flowers

The violet family (Violaceae) includes about 900 species of plants. Species in this family occur in all parts of the world, but are mostly in the temperate zones, and at high altitude in the tropics. The largest group in the family is the genus containing violets and pansies (Viola spp.), with about 500 species.

Most species in this family are annual or perennial herbs. The leaves are simple, commonly heart-shaped, and are alternately arranged on the stem, or arise from a basal rhizome. In most species the flowers are irregular, that is, they are composed of two complimentary halfs. The flowers of most species have both female (pistillate) and male (staminate) organs. Most species flower in the spring and early summer and have relatively large and showy flowers, sometimes grouped into an inflorescence. They typically produce fragrance and nectar to attract insect pollinators. Later in the growing season, some species also develop self-fertilized flowers that do not fully open, an unusual trait known as cleistogamy. The fruit is a many-seeded berry or capsule.

The major commercial value of species in the violet family is horticultural. One species is important in perfumery, and a few are used as medicinals.


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