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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - June 13, 2007

From: Warwick, RI
Region: Northeast
Topic: Transplants, Wildflowers
Title: Invasiveness of native Viola sororia
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I live in Warwick, RI and have a section of my backyard overgrown with common blue violets. My husband and I would like to relocate them to a more scenic location if possible. The advice the cooperative extension gave us was that the violets were a weed and invasive and we should permanently remove them. Since it's the state flower and a native species, it seems there should be some common ground between having an entire yard of violets and a nice controlled area of violets.

ANSWER:

We would be surprised if not shocked - certainly dismayed - to learn that your state's cooperative extension service is calling your official state flower (also the state flower of New Jersey) a weed and recommending its removal. Rhode Island's state flower, Viola sororia (common blue violet), is a widely distributed native of the eastern half of the United States. While this species is included on some weed lists, it doesn't seem right to consider your own official flower an enemy of the state; especially when it is a native there. As for being invasive, how does one invade one's own home?

Climbing down for a moment from our soapbox, we will admit that common blue violet does often make itself at home in shady lawns. They drive many gardeners to distraction - those who want the perfect, manicured look in their mostly non-native, often invasive lawn grass.

Transplant your violets in early fall in your area. They prefer partial shade, but will perform in fairly dense shade. Full sun locations will not work for woodland violet species.

 

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