The state flower of New Jersey is the Common Meadow Violet (Viola sororia). Native to the eastern half of North America, the Common Meadow Violet can be spotted in damp woodland meadows, on rural roadsides, and, perhaps, growing in a neighborhood lawn (Reference #1). The flower’s purple blooms are so widespread, in fact, that it has been named the state flower of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Rhode Island, in addition to New Jersey.
The common violet’s status as New Jersey’s state flower was not always clear. In 1913, the New Jersey legislature first passed a resolution designating the Viola sororia as the state flower. However, this resolution expired during the following year, and the issue was not taken up again for 50 years. In 1963, a new resolution was introduced, but it failed to pass through the legislature. It wasn’t until 1971, with the backing of garden clubs across New Jersey, that legislation was finally passed enshrining the Common Meadow Violet as the official New Jersey state flower.
The Common Meadow Violet is a perennial plant that flowers during the spring months. The green leaves and purple or violet hued flowers grow on separate stems, which emerge directly from a horizontal, ground-level plant stem called a rhizome. Typically, an individual plant grows to about six inches across and four inches high, with the flowers arranged just above the leaves.
The leaves are generally three inches across and have what might commonly be termed a heart-shape. Typically, the leaves are covered by a fine, hair-like growth. The flowers are less than an inch across, with five soft petals. The center mouth of each flower fades to white. During the summer, after the purple blooms have retreated, the plant produces a second type of flower, which has no petals. These flowers produce seeds, which are soon ejected, canon-like, from the flower pod. This explains why wild patches of the plant commonly extend over wide areas.
The Common Meadow Violet is considered to be the easiest to grow of all the members of the violet family. This plant does best in slightly moist conditions with partial or indirect sunlight, but it can flourish in direct sunlight if there is enough moisture in the soil. It has little tolerance for high temperatures, but does quite well if temperatures fall below freezing. The Common Meadow violet is commonly used for ground cover along walkways or under taller shrubs. If left untended, however, the plant may spread quite quickly as its seeds are ejected onto the nearby ground each summer. Lawns are especially attractive to the plant and it will invade if given the chance.
Flowers and young leaves from the Common Meadow Violet can be eaten. Though the taste is described as bland when used in salads, keep an eye out for the jellies and candies made with Common Meadow Violet flowers.
The Common Meadow Violet is also known as the common blue violet, the woolly blue violet, the hooded blue violet, and the wood violet.