Fen Violet

Fen Violet is a rare plant of winter-wet habitats

© Biopix JC Schou

Latin name: Viola persicifolia

Description/identification

Fen Violet is a pretty, low growing violet. The plants (‘tufts’ of leaves and flowers), grow at intervals, from a creeping rhizome to a height of 10-30cm. Fen Violet leaves are deep green and typically violet shaped – narrow and triangular. The flowers have broad pale, blue to purple, or pure white petals, which gives the plant its alternative name of milk violet. Flowers can be seen from May into June.

Habitat

Fen Violet is found in winter-wet habitats such as base-rich fens, bogs, marshes and unimproved wet meadows. It is found on peat and clay in areas with some bare soil, like those created by peat digging and the edges of seasonal pools, and it thrives where surrounding vegetation is kept short by grazing. The seeds of fen violet can remain viable in the seed bank for many years and populations tend to disappear and reappear from different sites.

Distribution and threats

It is currently listed as Endangered in the Red Data Book for Great Britain and it is listed on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. In the UK it is confined to a few sites in Oxford and East Anglia. The dramatic decline of Fen Violet is a result of factors such as habitat loss, drainage and lack of management.