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On the origin of the sweet-smelling Parma violet cultivars

Posted by denisd_31 France 8 (My Page) on
Sat, Nov 24, 07 at 8:40

On the origin of the sweet-smelling Parma violet cultivars (Violaceae): wide intraspecific hybridization, sterility, and sexual reproduction1
Valry Malcot7, Thomas Marcussen, Jrme Munzinger, Roxana Yockteng and Max Henry
American Journal of Botany; 2007; 94(1); p 29-41

ABSTRACT (copyright free)

Parma violets are reputed for their double, fragrant flowers and have been cultivated for centuries in Europe. However, due to a rather atypical morphology their taxonomic affinity has not been clarified. Authors have proposed an origin from three possible species, Viola alba, V. odorata, or V. suavis, or a hybrid origin. Using both ITS sequence variation and allozyme variation in 14 putative loci, we showed that the Parma violet cultivars have their origin within Viola alba and that they are best included in the Mediterranean subsp. dehnhardtii. There is no trace of interspecific hybridization. However, the cultivars appear to have a single origin in a wide hybrid within V. alba, involving parental plants from the eastern and western Mediterranean region; historical literature sources seem to indicate Turkey and Italy, respectively. The Parma violet cultivars possess high levels of allozyme heterozygosity and to some extent also within-individual ITS sequence variation. Losses of heterozygosity and within-individual ITS sequence variation in some of the cultivars indicate subsequent rare events of sexual reproduction, presumably through cleistogamous seed set. We unambiguously identify the closest wild relative of this group of cultivars, allowing growers to develop new selection procedures, and show a peculiar molecular process associated with human selection.

Complete article can be bought online for US$7.00.:


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: On the origin of the sweet-smelling Parma violet cultivars

Yup... the mystique is gone, they're nothing more than double forms of Viola alba; quite plain, really :) The good news is that it should be possible to breed hardier "Parma" violets from more northern sources of the species. If I lived in Europe, I'd already be working on that.


RE: On the origin of the sweet-smelling Parma violet cultivars

  • Posted by etii France 8 (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 24, 07 at 11:34

Thanks Denis :-)
Well, who's gonna pay 5 for that ? ;oP NO WAY...

Just wonder who's understanding what ITS, allozyme heterozygosity and so on are !!!!
But everybody will understand that: "allowing growers to develop new selection procedures" here we are...commercial !

Just hope parmas will still keep their secret :-)

Ciao - Thierry :-)

RE: On the origin of the sweet-smelling Parma violet cultivars

Parmas are quite hardy is their flowers which are not hardy..and as they bloom naturally in winter.. ;-)

RE: On the origin of the sweet-smelling Parma violet cultivars

  • Posted by etii France 8 (My Page) on
    Sun, Dec 2, 07 at 8:37

LOL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RE: On the origin of the sweet-smelling Parma violet cultivars

Well, they do freeze out badly here in a cold winter - where an odorata can live all the way into Canada without trouble. So there must be some room for improvement! :)


I forgot to say that, of course, you are quite right about the winter flowering, Nathalie. Surely the hardier sorts of Viola alba must bloom in the spring - does anyone know if they smell the same as the Parmas?

Good Question: On the origin of the sweet-smelling Parma violet

Under the Cronquist system, the families now included in the Malpighiales were dispersed throughout a number of different orders, not all of which belonged to the Rosidae. The most notable of these are the Polygalales, Violales, Theales, Linales, and Euphorbiales.

Parma violets are the exotic members of the violet family. They appeared in Italy, in the 16th century, introduced by the Bourbons (the ruling dynasty of the times) who in turn brought them from Spain or Portugal.

Here is a link that might be useful: American Violet Society

RE: On the origin of the sweet-smelling Parma violet cultivars

  • Posted by etii France 8 (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 24, 08 at 5:40

Parma violets exotic ?!!! What do you mean exotic ??

I gonna try to make it easy in words: according to me (just a point of view, not a theory), at the begining a "crazy" violet appears with many petals (that's not new at all - you can find other violets making that kind of strange behaviour: viola orientalis, viola mandshurica etc). Normaly, that parma violet should have vanished by itself (don't forget it's mainly steril). But fortunalety someone paid attention to it and men decided to grow it.
Tales (Bourbons, Turkey and so on) are just made for taking part of the mistery (there are many), not for being taken as truth.

The point is to understand/discover what kind of violet became "crazy" (viola odorata, viola alba, viola suavis ?? <- those violets are not exotic at all).

Parma violets have been grown for so many years that many changes appeared ('de Toulouse' in France and 'D'udine' in Italy, which are supposed to be the same violet, are different now). Because of that, I guess it's not possible anymore to discover the original violet that became "nuts" !

Moreover, what does it mean "parma violets" ? There are many and the only thing in common is that they make many petals, that's all. We don't know much...

All the best - Thierry :-)

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