Who was Lovell of V. lovelliana?

asiminaFebruary 10, 2002

Am researching Louisiana's native violets, and can not determine who is the namesake of V. lovelliana. Any help is much appreciated. thanks

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Mike Hardman(Cyprus, 100m altitude)

Mrs Phoebe Lovell. The species was named after her by Ezra Brainerd, since it was she who first found it "in a recent pine-chopping on loamy clay", in March 1906 at Crowley, Louisiana. [Ezra Brainerd: Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 1910; Vol.36 p.525; also in Viola Brainerd Baird: 'Wild Violets of North America', 1942.]

The type specimen is at the NY Botanic Garden - see link (if it does not time-out on you).

Note that, according to McKinney 1992 ('A Taxonomic Revision of the Acaulescent Blue Violets (Viola) of North America'), Viola lovelliana is now probably best regarded as subsumed into V. palmata. Elsewhere you may find it treated as a synonym for V. triloba Schwein., but McKinney treats V. triloba under V. palmata as well; see his discussion on p.15.

Do tell us about your research, Asimina. There can't be many people researching a narrow field like yours; how's it going? who's idea was it? Or if you are not ready yet, please come back in future and tell us what you've pieced together, or where we can go find your results.

Have fun,

Here is a link that might be useful: Viola lovelliana in the Vascular Plant Type Catalog of the New York Botanic Garden

    Bookmark   February 10, 2002 at 6:38PM
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Thanks so much for the information Mike. I am aware of the Brainerd and McKinney works, but haven't been able to access an academic library to read them. That should tell you about my non- ground breaking research. Basically I'm just compiling reports from secondary sources for a feature article for our local wildflower's club newsletter. Still i think the article will be worthwhile for the non-specialist as i hope to pack it with facts such as that you so kindly supplied.
Looking at my sources, I believe 16 species of viola grow wild in Louisiana (15 native plus V. tricolor).
As the new editor, I plan to start a yahoo group for the Folsom(LA) Native Plant Society. I will post the article there, and append the link to this thread shortly.
Interesting note on mckinney's suggestion it's V. palmata.
For my article, I'm using the Interagency Taxonomic Information System database as my species arbiter (see link)
They still have it as a separate species, though their classifications have knocked LA down from about 23 to 15 native species. Thanks again.

Here is a link that might be useful: Query the ITIS database

    Bookmark   February 12, 2002 at 11:46AM
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Mike Hardman(Cyprus, 100m altitude)

I'll look forward to reading your article. I'm always in favour of popularizing violets (I am presuming you won't have found lots of nasty things to say about them!)

I mention the following, thinking of how readers of your article might use their new found information - namely, they might, completely reasonably, use it to try to identify the species...

McKinney simplifies preceding treatments of US stemless blue Viola (eg. Brainerd (1924), Russell (1965) considerably, meaning that some species are reduced to symonyms and others are reduced to intra-specific ranks such as subspecies and variety. He does this with some justification, I believe, through recognizing that many of the earlier species show considerable variation, resulting in such a large overlap of characteristics between species that differentiating them reliably is well-nigh impossible. Also, many of those species interbreed, so hybrids further blur the boundaries.

It should be remembered that, in assessing the variability of characteristics, McKinney looked at a large number of specimens from a wide geographical range - the proper thing to do. However, when you or I or your readers look at a few plants from a colony or two of a particular species, they may seem to be relatively distinct, and perhaps distinguishable from other violets in the vicinity. This narrow view is one which is prone to lead to coining of new species; that is how some of them arose in the past, and that is why McKinney had to regroup them, creating a more widely-applicable definition of species and subspecies.

So, while it would be great to have enthusiasts looking closely at characteristics of violets (or any other plants), one always has to remember, when trying to identify a plant, that not all characteristics are significant, and that it is important to look at how a charcateristic varies. For instance, leaf shape may vary within a single plant (perhaps depending on time of the year), within a colony (perhaps depending on soil or light), or throughout the whole distribution (depending on altitude or latitude, eg.)

Views will always vary; there will always be lumpers and splitters in the taxonomic world; taxonomic attitudes vary through time like fashion. As a reflection of that, the ITIS database is a little more of a splitter than McKinney. So take nothing as gospel truth (including this posting); natural history is not an exact discipline, but relies partly on opinion and consensus.

Now, you know the flavour of your article much better than I do, but I would suggest that it may do some good to incorporate the germ of that idea if you can. In fact, making folks aware that there is some plasticity in taxonomy - it is not a fixed text book - can lead to greater interest, because there is more scope for participation in advancment of the science. Anybody could make an observation which turned out to be useful in shifting consensus or in proving or disproving an assumption. In fact, a recent example of this can be found in a discussion on the American Violet Society forum - see link.

I hope your Yahoo group goes well.


Here is a link that might be useful: Discussion of Viola sagitata f. ovata and f. sagitata

    Bookmark   February 12, 2002 at 2:03PM
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Mike Hardman(Cyprus, 100m altitude)

I have not seen this, but it sounds like it might be of interest to you:
Russell, N.H. 1961. Notes: Keys to Louisiana violets (Viola-Violaceae) SouthW. Naturalist 6:184-186
I leave you to make your own judgments.
Cheers, Mike

    Bookmark   February 24, 2002 at 9:08AM
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The study of violets is no place for a shrinking violet. Ms. Dormon notes:"Few persons seem to have any conception of how many species of wild violet there are."(1) Mr. Brown says: "Violets are difficult to identify." (2)Another authority states: "Few systematic botanists are authorities onviolets, and many prefer to avoid them." (3)
These little flowers cause big trouble because of the high degree ofvariability they exhibit. Plants of the same species may not look alike.Further complications arise from frequent hybridization between species,producing an even greater variety of forms.
Violets belong to Violacea, a family of predominantly herbs, but which, inthe tropics, can grow as shrubs and even trees. Every authority cites a different figure, of course, but Mabberley states the family Violacea has 20
genera with about 800 species worldwide. The genus Viola has about 400 species, and is the only genus exclusive to temperate climates, reaching peak diversity in North America and the Andes. Another principal genus is
Hybanthus, with about 150 mostly tropical species.(4)
The violets we know, i.e. the lovely five-petaled purple flower probably blooming in your yard right now, are all in the genus Viola. Yes, but Viola what? There's the rub.
Looking at the sources frequently used by FNPS members, i.e. Dormon,Browne, and Timme, one sees different species emphasized, and sometimes the same species referred to by differing scientific names. This latter condition is a question of synonyms, scientific names that have been used
previously to refer to that plant, but for taxonomic or nomenclatural reasons are no longer preferred. For example, Viola floridana is no longer considered a separate species from Viola sororia, thus V. sororia is the accepted scientific name and V. floridana a synonym.
The following list compiles the species of Viola listed by Brown, Dormon,and Timme as native to Louisiana and Mississippi (and, for good measure,those listed in Dr. Norman Russell's more academic review(5)), and draws on
various sources to provide tips for further identification. Accounting for synonyms, the final tally is 16 species of Viola you might hope to see, 15 natives plus one introduced exotic.(6)
Now that we know what to look for, on to identification.
Mrs. Doretta Klaber published a wonderful book on violets (at age 86!) in which she noted three preliminary characteristics that aid in identifying violets: 1.) flower color; 2.) stemless or stemmed: the stemless violets
have no stem above the ground, but have a short thick rootstock on which the flower stalk is borne; stemmed violets have stems from which the leaves and flowers branch; and 3.) leaf form: is the leaf uncut, with the typical heart shaped leaf, or cut, meaning divided into lobes of varying depth and number.
Using this key, one can first identify the larger grouping in which to place the candidate violet, and then attempt a more specific definition.
Remember, however, that nothing is certain in the world of violets. Further study may well revise this list; species may be added or deleted. As the great Linnaeus himself asked: "Who errs not while perambulating the
domain of nature? Who can observe everything with accuracy?" So pay some extra attention to violets this spring-and who knows-maybe you will discover
Viola folsomnativeplantsocietyensis!

I. Purple Stemless Uncut:

Viola sororia - "Common Blue Violet" "Hooded Violet" "Sister Violet"

Name: from Latin soror-'sister,' so called because early botanists saw it as the "sister" to familiar European species.
Further identification: A rather open sinus, i.e. the cleft or recess between two lobes, usually characterizes the leaves. The leaves vary in size and pubescence, i.e. hairiness, to the extent that what was once considered
a separate species, V. papilionacea, proved to be a smooth leaved form of V. sororia. A variety with whitish petals with violet markings is known as Confederate Violet.
Notes: The most common species in the United States, and the one most likely growing on your lawn.
Synonyms: V. floridana (Timme)

Viola affinis LeConte - "Sand Violet" "Affiliated Violet" "Bayou Violet"

Name: from Latin affinis-'neighboring; related by marriage,' perhaps because it is related to many species and varieties, indeed so intimately related that many formerly separate species are now classified as varieties of V. affinis. John Eaton LeConte (1784-1860) was a pioneering botanist of the northeastern American flora.
Further identification: The leaves are rather small and triangular in appearance, with the sinus usually v-shaped. Our Gulf Coast variety, sometimes referred to as V. langloisii, usually has a deeper purple flower
and longer peduncles, i.e. flower-stalks, than other varieties. Look for it in moist hardwood areas.
Notes: V. affinis is very common, but is easily mistaken for V. sororia or V. cucullata.V. rosacea, listed in Brown, is no longer considered a separate species, but
a rosy-purpled flower variety of V. affinis.
Synonyms: V. langloisii (Brown, Dormon) V. rosacea (Brown, Dormon)

Viola cucullata - "Blue Marsh Violet"

Name: from Latin cucullus-'hood, cowl,' perhaps because of the leaf curl?
Further identification: Look very closely at the beards on the lower side petals. In V. cucullata, the hairs are thick and rounded at the tip, like tiny clubs. The flowers are carried well above the leaves, not equaling them
in height as in V. sororia, have narrower petals, and are fewer in number. Leaves are generally smooth, but may be slightly pubescent, and the sinus is usually narrower than in V. sororia. The leaves have a tendency to curl in
upon themselves as they age. V. cucullata grows from 5 to 10 inches high.
Notes: Look for it on the banks of streams, wet meadows, bogs. This is a violet of wet places.

Viola sagittata - "Arrow Leaved Violet"

Name: from Latin saggita -'arrow.'
Further identification: Grows very tall with narrow elongate leaves (1.5 to 4 inches long) on long petioles. The base of the leaf typically has a lobe or a spur. The flowers are borne on long, slender stems, 5 or 6 inches
above the leaves.
Notes: Grows in moist woods. V. sagittata is particularly prone to hybridization.

Viola lovelliana - "Lovell's Violet" "Dogtooth Violet"

Name: Named for Mrs. Phoebe Lovell. She collected a specimen in March 1906 at Crowley, Louisiana, and sent the then unknown species to Ezra Brainerd,an eminent violet authority of the early 20th century (indeed, he named his
daughter Viola).
Further identification: The leaves are similar to V. sagittata, but the flowers are larger and grow on long, slender pedicels, i.e. flower stalks, and are held high above the leaves. The winter leaves are small and cordate
(heart- shaped). As the leaves age, their lobing increases, and they gradually assume a reddish-brown autumn coloring.
Notes: Some authorities regard V. lovelliana as a variety of V. palmata.

Viola villosa - "Southern Wooly Violet" "Downy Violet" "Carolina Violet"

Name: from Latin villosus -'hairy.'
Further identification: the leaves are soft and wooly, covered with rusty hairs on the leaves and petioles, more lightly on the pedicels. V. villosa grows low, leafing, and spreading. Notes: The earliest violet to bloom in Louisiana.

II. Purple Stemmed Uncut:

Viola rostrata - "Long Spurred Violet"

Name: from Latin rostratus -'having a beak, curved.'
Further identification: The flower has a spur, half an inch long, making it unmistakable for any other violet. The spur may be curved or straight. The basal leaves are more rounded, whereas the stemmed leaves get increasingly
pointed as they near the terminal. The stems may be 6-8 inches long.

Viola walteri - "Walter's Violet" "Southern Prostrate Violet" "Running Violet"

Name: named for Thomas Walter (ca. 1740-1788), an early Southern botanist.
Further identification: The small leaves have very tiny white hairs that give them a silvery appearance, and are almost round, with cordate bases. The flowers are small, and bloom in profusion.
Notes: Spreads by runners, and carpets the ground in favorable locations.

Viola tricolor - "Johnny Jump-up" "Pansy violet"

Name: from Latin tres -'three' and color -'color'
Further identification: Despite its name, V. tricolor can also be bicolored or a single tone. A sure mark is the pectinate (comb-like) stipules, i.e. the appendage at the base of the petiole.
Notes: V. tricolor will hybridize with other violets in the area. More like a tiny pansy than a violet, V. tricolor is not a native, but a European species that escaped cultivation.
Synonyms: V. rafinesquii (Dormon)

III. Purple Stemless Cut:

Viola pedata - "Birdfoot Violet" "Crowfoot Violet" "Pansy Violet"

Name: from Latin pedis -'foot,' as its deeply cut leaves suggested a bird's foot to Linnaeus.
Further identification: The largest of our Louisiana violets. The leaves are divided into narrow fingerlike lobes. The flowers vary in color from light violet to dark purple, less commonly bicolored with the upper petals a deep
violet, and the lower petals lighter (the variety known as "Pansy Violet").
The flowers have a yellow eye, with conspicuous orange anthers. V. pedata grows from 4 to 10 inches high. Ms. Dormon notes: "Unlike many violets, V. pedata's flowers turn their faces to the sky, the better displaying the
Notes: Widely distributed in Louisiana pineland soils.

Viola palmata - "Palmate Violet" "Three-lobed Violet"

Name: from Latin palma - 'palm (as of the hand or the palm branch),'referring to its palmate leaves.
Further identification: The deeply cut leaves are hairy on the undersurface and petioles, but southern varieties may be smooth. The early (winter) leaves are undivided, but the spring leaves appearing with the flowers are divided into three lobes, and may be further divided into five to eleven
lobes. The flowers overtop the leaves, and generally have white heavily bearded centers. When the blooming season is over, the leaves become very large, sometimes three inches long. V. palmata grows about 4 to 6 inches high.
Notes: All violets are edible, but V. palmata is reputed to be the most palatable.
Synonyms: V. triloba var. dilatata (Dormon)

Viola septemloba -"Southern Coastal Violet"

Name: from Latin septem - 'seven' and Greek lobos - 'lobe'
Further identification: Despite its name, V. septemloba doesn't always show seven lobes. Basal leaves are cordate, and other leaves range from undivided to deeply cut. Look for a prominent central lobe with lower lobes pointing

IV. White Stemless Uncut:

Viola primulifolia - "Primrose-leaved Violet"

Name: from Medieval Latin prima rosa - 'first rose,' i.e. primrose, hence the genus Primula, and Latin folium -'leaf,' as its leaves resemble those of the primrose.
Further identification: Very variable in form. The leaves are smooth, but may be pubescent in the South, and frequently show some red on the back and in the veins. The petioles may be winged. Pedicels and petioles are
rose-colored near the ground. The flowers have a green pistil and orange stamens, with their middle lower petal marked with purplish veins.
Notes: Common and widely distributed in wet sites in both pine and hardwood areas. V. primulifolia has a long blooming season, from late February to May.

Viola lanceolata - "Bog white violet" "Lance Leaf Violet"

Name: from Latin lancea -'lance,' for the leaf shape.
Further identification: The narrow, slightly toothed, glabrous (hairless)leaves taper at both ends, with the lower end extending into margined petioles. The white flowers have purple lines and are beardless.

V. White Stemmed Uncut:

Viola bicolor - "Wild Pansy"
Name: from Latin bini - 'twofold' and color -'color.'
Further identification: The flowers vary in color, from white with a tinge of purple to pale purple with a white center. The leaves are almost entire. The pectinate stipules are characteristic.

Yellow Stemmed Uncut:

Viola pubescens - "Downy Yellow Violet"
Name: from Latin pubesco -'to arrive at maturity, esp. the growth of hair.'
Further identification: Can reach 12 inches in height, often much shorter.Leaves are generally cordate. If you see a yellow violet in Louisiana, it's most likely V. pubescens. If it's not, contact the nearest authority to have your botanical sleuthing rewarded. The lower petal has brown markings near it's base.
Notes: A widespread species with many variations. Most Southern yellow violets are in the mountain districts. Dr. Russell says to look for V.pubescens in northern Louisiana.


(1)Caroline Dormon, Wild Flowers of Louisiana and How to Know Them.
(2) Clair Brown, WildFlowers of Louisiana.
(3) Greene/Blomquist Flowers of the South, UNC Press, 1953.
(4) D.J. Mabberley, The Plant Book, Cambridge U. Press, 1997. Hybanthus concolor is listed in Timme.
(5) Dr. Norman Russell, "Keys to Louisiana Violets", Southwestern Naturalist 6:184-186.
(6) The authority used as the final word on species was the Integrated Taxonomic Information System

    Bookmark   March 2, 2002 at 12:19PM
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Mike Hardman(Cyprus, 100m altitude)


Thanks so much for posting the fruits of your labours !

Just a couple of points:
- the family is called Violaceae - there is an extra 'e' on the end
- I am not familiar with Dormon, but are you sure she has Viola rafinesquii as a synonym of V. tricolor ? I would expect it to be a synonym of V. bicolor.


    Bookmark   March 3, 2002 at 3:12PM
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The Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants lists V. rafinesquii as a synonym for V. bicolor. I love all the violets and have appreciated this thread!

Carol Lovell-Saas aka Carol of Butterfly Baby Food Land

Here is a link that might be useful: Viola bicolor

    Bookmark   November 15, 2003 at 11:12PM
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She was born Phebe Susan Beach in Pennfield, MI, about 1856 and married Preston S. Lovell in 1878. She was a resident of Crowley from 1900 or earlier through at least 1930.

Here is a link that might be useful: manuscripts at U of LA

    Bookmark   January 20, 2004 at 12:17PM
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