Rhode Island State Flower - Violet

Violets frequently have white throats.

Violets frequently have white throats.

Rhode Island is home to 14 species of violets, but only one of them, Viola sororia, is the state’s official flower. Native to a wide swath of the United States -- from North Dakota, south to Texas and all states to the east -- the common blue violet is often seen peeking out of even the most carefully tended Rhode Island lawns. In nature, you’ll find the flowers in the state’s fields and woods.


Rhode Island’s violet is a perennial plant that grows from a rhizome. It reaches 4 inches in height, with a 6-inch spread. The color of the foliage varies, from yellow-green to deep green, depending on how much sun the plant receives. Violets bear 5-inch-wide purple flowers with five petals. Rhode Island shares its flower with three other states who have also adopted it as their floral emblem: New Jersey, Wisconsin and Illinois.


Rhode Island didn’t rush into their official flower proclamation. It took, in fact, over 70 years for the process to wend it’s way to completion. Like many other states, the official flower of Rhode Island was chosen by the state’s school children, back in 1897. There were 10 choices on the ballot, and the violet easily beat out all other contenders, including the carnation, the pansy and the rose. The Rhode Island General Assembly made the choice official in 1978, naming Viola palmata as the state’s flower. Then, in 2001, Senate Bill No. 0859 changed the species of the state’s official flower to Viola sororia, also known as the common blue violet.

Cultivation Notes

Since the violet is a wildflower, you’ll be most successful growing it if you mimic the conditions under which it grows in nature. Violets grow well with either morning sun and afternoon shade or partial shade. They require consistently moist soil with lots of compost mixed in. If grown in the sun, the leaves may turn yellow unless the soil is kept moist at all times. Violets spread, so plant them in an area where you don’t mind having them pop up here and there.


Rhode Island’s Native American tribes frequently used the common violet for medicinal purposes. The leaves were crushed and liquefied and used to treat headaches or boiled into infusions that relieved tribe members’ coughs. Today, Rhode Island gardeners with wildflower gardens often grow the violet in the dappled shade beneath trees. Since both the leaves and flowers are edible, you can toss some into a salad for a splash of unexpected color.

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  • violet image by olena from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>


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