Common Blue Violet (Viola Sororia): A Wild Edible With Medicinal Uses

Common Blue Violet (Viola Sororia)_ A Wild Edible With Medicinal Uses
Viola sororia, often referred to as the common blue violet, is a herbaceous perennial wildflower plant with a short stem, native to eastern North America. The common blue violet flowers and leaves can be eaten cooked or raw.

Common blue violets are both edible and medicinal and come up in the late winter or early spring.

In medicine, they are often used to treat colds, bronchitis, chronic cough, asthma, inflamed gums, and sometimes even headaches.

Foraging these wild violets is easy as they tend to grow almost everywhere and are simple to spot.

Are blue violets perennials?

Frequently cultivated in gardens at home, the common blue violet is a perennial plant.

Due to the plant’s tough composition, the common blue violet is hardy and an excellent choice to grow as ground cover.

Is viola sororia edible?

Yes, common blue violet leaves are edible and are often used as a tea, a potherb, added to a salad, or to thicken broths or soups.

Just like checkerbloom, the leaves are said to have a soft texture and mild taste.

Can common blue violets be eaten raw?

Violet flowers can be eaten either candied or raw. The leaves can also be eaten raw as an ingredient in a salad or can be cooked similar to spinach.

When dried, the leaves are often used to make teas.

Are there any poisonous violets?

Now, a word of caution. Although violets are not poisonous, you must be aware of one specific wild violet look-alike. It goes by the name lesser celandine (Ficaria verna), which is toxic!

Even though lesser celandine has yellow flowers that do not closely resemble wild violets, it does have very similar heart-shaped leaves, so please be careful when foraging.

Due to this leaf’s similarity in shape, it is safest to wait until wild violet blooms before harvesting to be sure of the identification.

Also, wild violets are not the same as African violets (Saintpaulia), a common house plant that is not edible.

Ficaria verna
Ficaria verna
African violet
African violet

Where does the common blue violet grow?

Viola sororia is native to eastern and central North America and can also be found in northeastern Mexico.

The common blue violet is the state flower of 3 states in the USA: Rhode Island, Illinois, and New Jersey, and it can also be found in Wisconsin, Montana, Minnesota, and Florida.

Common blue violets are evergreen and prolific in milder parts of our region. They appear in woods, thickets, and along streambeds, especially in shadier areas.

These plants flourish in many habitats, including forests, riparian communities, woodlands spanning from fairly dry to mesic, tallgrass prairies, and moist meadows.

What color is the common blue violet?

The color varies.

As the common name suggests, the violet flowers have petals that are usually:

  • blue
  • blue-violet with white throats
  • medium to dark violet
  • white
  • a mix of blue and white
Common blue violet
Common blue violet

Identifying a Viola sororia by its leaves

The plant has several characteristics you can look for to identify it, including:

  • deep-green leaves
  • leaves that are often two to three inches long and wide
  • heart-shaped leaves
  • leaves that have a crenate margin of rounded teeth
  • tips of the lower leaves tend to be more rounded
  • upper leaves show more of a taper
Viola sororia in nature
Viola sororia in nature

What are the growing conditions for common blue violets?

The violet will freely self-seed and happily multiply in satisfactory growing conditions.

It performs best in light shade or part shade in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils, and tolerates full sun if there is sufficient moisture.

The common blue violet prefers humus-rich, moisture-retentive soils.

How do you prepare and eat violets?

The edible violet plant can be used to make syrups, brew teas, and incorporated into baked desserts. Also, flowers can be added to salads and soups as a garnish.

Violets can be used as the principal ingredient or sole ingredient in many different recipes, including:

  • violet sugar
  • candied violets
  • violet lemonade
  • violet jelly
  • violet simple syrup
  • violet vinegar
  • violet honey
  • dried violets tea

There are so many different ways to use violets in your kitchen, and although lots of them are sweet, there are many savory options too.

Next time you feel adventurous, sprinkle whole violets on a fresh salad or use just the petals.

Violet petals are also great over vegetables and add a nice touch when sprinkled on baked goods.

Remember that before using your violets in various dishes, you must properly wash them.

To do this, you can fill a bowl with cold water. Then add in the violets and swish them around a few times. Finally, gently lift your violets from the bowl and carefully transfer them to a strainer, leaving all the grit at the bottom of the bowl.

Let the violets drain for several minutes, and then spread them on a towel or paper towel to finish drying them.

Important note:

Yellow violet varieties are not used as often because they can have a laxative effect.

How many different types of violets are there?

From the violet family Violaceae, the viola is the largest genus and has over 500 species, including:

  • meadow violet
  • woolly blue violet
  • confederate violet
  • hooded blue violet
  • Missouri violet

Although some violets can be spotted in widely varying areas like Australia, the Andes, and even Hawaii, most species can be found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere.

Typically, a mature plant can be 4″ high and 6“ across, with the leaves slightly lower than the petals.

Depending on growing conditions, the leaves are individually up to 3″ across and 3“ long and do vary in color from dark green to yellowish. The leaves are oval-ovate to orbicular-cordate in shape and crenate or serrate along the margins.


Ana has always been interested in all things nature and flora. With her expertise in home gardening and interest in foraging, she has been spending her weekends and free time looking for edible native plants, flowers, and fungi. One of her many hobbies includes testing new savory and sweet recipes, juices or teas made from freshly picked plants, wild fruits, or mushrooms.

Recent Posts