The Shrinking Violet

By Mary Catherine Foster

The idiom “shrinking violet,” has been in use since at least the early 1800s. At first, it was used to refer to the actual wild flower that often grows in shady spots, tucked into nooks and crannies and bearing flowers that seem to hide among its leaves. By the midcentury, use of the term was expanded to include reference to a shy, modest individual. For many of us, we would add another phrase — a harbinger of spring. The native violets are a welcomed early sign of spring in late February and early March; and unless you are taking a stroll, you may hardly notice the blooms peeking out of the debris left over from winter.

The common blue violet (Viola sororia) seems to have been anything but “shrinking” this spring. Along some of the routes I frequently travel, two large patches caught my attention in late March. One patch was on a ditch bank along the Central Hill Road not far from the Isle of Wight Courthouse. On a bright sunny day, the patch was hard to miss. The second sighting was along Peanut Drive just down from where that road intersects with the Central Hill Road. A ribbon of blue violets seemed to flow down the center of a ditch. It was so striking that I pulled into a driveway and walked over to gaze at the awesome sight. Neither patch was visible for much over a week, being swallowed up by fast-growing grasses and weeds.

Wild violets are often considered a weed in turf grass and lawns. They spread by seeds and rhizomes and may be a pest if a manicured lawn is the goal. While generally not a showy plant, violets have a purpose in the local ecosystem. Violets are host to 27 species of native caterpillars, including three species of fritillary butterflies. A small structure attached to the seeds contains fats and protein. Ants use these structures as a food source and transport them to their nests, thus helping to disperse seeds. The flowers attract bees and other pollinators, and the seeds attract game birds. Native violets can be blue, white or purple. They grow in sun or shade and, while preferring moist soils, will grow with average conditions. The plants can make an attractive ground cover.

Native violets can be under-appreciated and unnoticed until seen en masse. This year the common blue violet, at times, was anything but shrinking or modest. Oh, the joy of taking a ride on country roads.

Franklin

Local officials react to attempted assassination of Trump

Franklin

LOOKING BACK: Murfreesboro to Franklin Railroad Proposed

Columnists

COLUMN: The big move

News

Gov. Youngkin allocates $30.1 million to the Route 460 Road Improvement Project

Isle of Wight County

Windsor Planning Commission supports Bank Street Duplex

Franklin

Southampton Sheriff’s Office make arrests in connection with Courtland shooting

Franklin

Kaine calls for unity in wake of Trump assassination attempt

Agribusiness

Virginia Market News Service weekly ag brief – July 12, 2024

Faith

COLUMN: Blink if you can hear me

Isle of Wight County

Windsor/Holland Hurricanes win state title

Isle of Wight County

Why Windsor’s July 4 fireworks show was canceled

Franklin

Franklin City Council authorizes stipend for commissioners

Isle of Wight County

Windsor looks for write-in candidate for council

Isle of Wight County

LETTER: Opposed to solar farms

News

Charter aims to improve relationship between boards

News

Museum of Southampton History nearly ready for demolition

Isle of Wight County

King to play football and run track for VUL

Isle of Wight County

Windsor 8U All-Stars advance to regional tourney

News

Broadband project leads economic developer’s update

Business

Highground Services earns Business of the Year honor

Lifestyles

Courtland library holds Summer Reading Program Kickoff

News

Complaint renewed of trucks on Shady Brook Trail

News

The dynamic duo that changed baseball journalism

Franklin

2024 Moses Clements Virginia Tech Scholarship Dinner set