USA Official State Flower Official Illinois State Flower

Native Violet

(Viola sororia)
Adopted in 1908.

Illinois was the first of four states to choose the violet, Viola sororia, as its state flower. The violet was selected to be Illinois' state flower by schoolchildren in 1908. The violet is also the state flower for New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

Although its name suggests its color, the violet comes in many colors including yellow, white, blue-violet, lilac-purple, and even an unusual green! There are at least 30 common violet species in Illinois with at least 25 types found in the Chicago area alone. Most species have small flowers (about 1 inch to 1 inches across) usually containing five petals.

Violets are found in all kinds of sites from sunny prairies and lawns to shady woods and wetlands. The flowering season of the violet depends on the species and spans from mid-March to June. The whole violet is a favorite meal of rabbits, while mice, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse and mourning doves eat only the seeds.

One violet species is nicknamed "Johnny Jump-up" and many others have been the subject of poems and nursery rhymes. They have also been called "nature's vitamin pill." Believe it or not, violets are high in vitamin A and contain more vitamin C (ounce for ounce) than oranges!

The law that made the violet the state flower designated the "blue violet." Unfortunately, Gleason and Cronquist recognize approximately eight species of blue-flowered violets in the state. The most common of these is the dooryard violet (Viola sororia).

The dooryard violet is certainly one of the most recognizable native wildflowers in the state. It is also one of the most easily grown; it grows in anything from full sunlight to deep shade.

Many types of violets, including the dooryard violet, produce two kinds of flowers. The large showy flowers that people associate with the plants are common in the spring. After the showy flowers have bloomed, the plant produces small, closed flowers on short stems near the ground. These flowers look like small buds. It is these small, closed flowers that produce most of the seeds.

The showy flowers are edible. The petals are frequently covered with sugar and used as decorations on cakes.

  • Family: Violet (Violaceae)
  • Habitat: woods, meadows, waste areas
  • Height: 3-8 inches
  • Flower size: 3/4 to 1 inch wide
  • Flower color: blue-purple, occasionally white or bicolor
  • Flowering time: April to June
  • Origin: native
Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta -- Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta -- Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida -- Dicotyledons
Subclass Rosidae
Order Violales
Family Violaceae -- Violet family
Genus Viola L
Species Viola sororia Willd. -- common blue violet P