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Common Dog-violet

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A common violet flowering in April and May and identifiable by the pale cream spur behind the flower head.


Common Dog-violet: the spur of the moment

Post date: Wednesday, 18 February, 2015 - 00:00

Every spring the dog-violets appear and it is easy to dismiss them all as just 'dog-violets'. There are, however, four species that appear although the pale and heath violets are early summer rather than early spring. The most common and earliest flowering are the common dog-violet (Viola riviniana) and the early dog-violet and telling them apart can be a bit tricky.

The early dog-violet certainly comes out early in the year being in flower in March and is a few weeks ahead of its close cousin the common dog-violet which is more prevalent in April and May. The early dog-violet has a narrower flower than the common dog-violet but the colour of the spur on the back of the flower is usually the best way to tell them apart with the early having a spur the same colour as the flower whereas the common dog-violet has a pale, cream spur as you can see in my photograph.

Both species grow in open woodland, on hedge banks and verges; the early dog-violet perhaps preferring shade and so is also known as the wood dog-violet whereas the common dog-violet can be found in more open areas and can occur on pasture and grassland too.

Why 'dog' violets? Apparently they are scentless and are called dog-violets to differentiate between them and the scented violets, especially the sweet violet.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Common Dog-violet
Scientific Name Viola riviniana
Family Violet family - Violaceae
Status Common
Interest Level
Species Family Violet Family - Violaceae
Flower Colour Group Purple
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
Preferred Environment
Look for Early flowering purple violet with a pale spur behind the flower
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

This species is often found in these habitats:

Habitat(s) Relationship
GC: Calcareous Grassland Associated
W1: Broad-leaf Woodland Associated