Viola novae-angliae, House

Viola novae-angliae House

Kim’s unfinished notes. Illustrations; 5 photographs of Viola novae-angliae, 1 of a hybrid and 3 pencil drawings

Viola novae-angliae x septentrionalis or is it pure V septentrionalis. Amnicon Falls, WI (June 2004)TM: Section Nosphinium, subsect. Boreali-Americanae [NEW classification, 2010].


Seeds from Flanagan Crag, Wisconsin, olive green, 1.8mm long (seed 1.5 = aril 0.3 mm) x 0.9 mm, lightly speckled, large, long colourless elaiosome.

Seeds dark olive, 2.8 x 1.2 mm, also 2.0 x 0.9 mm.? [should this be 1.8mm?]

Seeds KB, large aril, very pale grey-brown, 2.2 x 1.0 mm.

Seeds dark brown, 1.6 x 1.0 mm.

Seeds ex Wisconsin: olive green, length 1.5 ex elaiosome, 1.9 including elaiosome x 0.8 mm. Elaiosome large, one third the size of the seed. (Same as above, Flannagan Crag).

Viola novae-angliae(April 2005)

Distribution: Southeastern Canada extending southward to Minnesota in the west to New York in the east. Northern Maine.

Habitat: New England Blue Violet is found along the shores of lakes and rivers.

Flowering period: May to June.

Similar Species: New England Blue Violet is most similar to Viola affinis and the two are nearly indistinguishable [I don’t agree, more similar to V. septentrionalis]. The flowers of New England Blue Violet have a reddish tint missing in Viola affinis, also the seeds are a different colour.

Habitat: Gravels, wet rocks, shores and meadows. [Non-tidal rivershore (non-forested, seasonally wet)]

Range: New Brunswick to Maine, New York, northern Michigan to northern Wisconsin, northwestern Ontario to southern Manitoba.

Phenology: In Maine, flowers in early June.

In Maine, it is restricted to calcareous slate ledges of the lower Penobscot, St. John, and Allagash Rivers. It typically grows on ledges projecting into the river, well below the spring high-water line. Usually, the plants are above the water level for all of the growing season, although unusually intense summer rains may temporarily flood the plants.

The New England violet is a perennial herb with thick, short rhizomes. It has narrow, triangular leaves (longer than wide), heart-shaped at the base, with shallow rounded teeth along the margin. The mature leaves are 2-7 cm long and 2-5 cm broad. A distinctive feature is that the blades, petioles, and peduncles are all pubescent. The plants are stemless and do not produce stolons. Flowers purple, upper petals often recurved.

Viola novae-angliae (May 1996)

Holotype specimen in Smithsonian collected by Fernald, M.L. 2245, 15 Jun 1898. USA. Maine. Aroostook County. Fort Kent, valley of St. John River.

Zurich herbarium: Specimen collected by Fernald has leaves not as long as my photo, but more so than affinis, large, obvious crenations on leaf margin [see my drawings and notes for this illustration].

Viola novae-angliae, pencil drawing and notes
Viola novae-angliae Flanagans Outlook, Douglas Co, WI Oct 05)
Viola novae-angliae, Wisconsin (June 2004)

University of Wisconsin, Herbarium specimen details:

Accession SUWS014879 Taxon Viola novae-angliae House County Polk Location Garfield- Kennedy Mill Environmental Area; located on Kennedy Mill Ave. 33N17W03 N2 Habitat Lowland area, shaded. Collecting Event Collector Anderson, Derek S. 12 5/18/2002

Accession SUWS014882 Taxon Viola novae-angliae House Polk County, Garfield-Kennedy Mill Environmental Area; located on Kennedy Mill Ave. 33N17W03 N2 Habitat Growing in an open area that had been mowed earlier in the year; on the edge of a wood; some dandelions near by; dark soil with some sand, nearby trees include white pine and paper birch. Collecting Event Collector Anderson, Derek S. 24 5/26/2002


Found in Douglas county, Wisconsin, June 13-14, 2004: one site at edge of water, in sand deposited by river, below vernal water level. Also found growing in pine needle duff in a crack in basalt rock beside the river, under white pine and red pine nearby (Amnicon Falls State Park, photo). At a second site, below Flanagan Crag lookout tower, it was growing in very deep leaf litter of alders, birch, pines and oak trees, in shade on side of gravel road (not basalt, but dark grey), on a dry hill, next to a gravel pit, no where near any water. Top of rhizome was 2-3” deep in leaf litter. Nearby were Aquilegia canadensis, Cornus canadensis, Maianthemum canadense (all also at first site) and an upright straggly Corydalis sempervirens, with pink and orange flowers and glaucous leaves. Flowers at first site were RHS 88 B-C (blue-mauve), no hairs on auricles, notch at end of spurred petal, cilia on edge of sepal margin [therefore V. novae-angliae!!!], dense patch of long straight hairs on all three lowest petals, white on base of all petals but more obvious on lowest three, flowers large, 2.9 x 2.9 cm, spur saccate, end rounded, leaves 1.5 – 2 x as long as wide, except for first leaf which may be wider, but still longer than wide. But remember small plants growing in sand beside the river at Amnicon, the first leaves were recognizably long, about 2 x as long as wide.   Petioles, and lower half of peduncles below the bracteoles in the middle, pubescent. Leaves pubescent under. Leaf margin narrowly decurrent on the petiole for about 1/3 length. The flowering plant may be a hybrid with V. septentrionalis, so be careful. It does not have glabrous margins to the sepals [it should have cilia on sepals but not on auricles so this is V. novae-angliae], and was more vigorous, with more leaves/plant. No flowers on plants at second site, but wait for next spring. Hope to get red-purple flowers with no cilia on margins of auricles. Klaber says flowers lilac! Brainerd and Baird both say flowers red-purple. Peterson Field Guide says petals darker, more reddish violet, a downy northern violet with 3 bearded petals, similar to V. septentrionalis but leaves narrower, triangular, not purplish beneath.   Wet rocks, shores. Local, n. Minnesota, n. Wisconsin, n. Michigan, Ontario to n. Maine, New Brunswick. May to June flowering.

Viola novae-angliae, ex Wisconsin (April 2005)
Viola novae-angliae, Penobscot River, ME (May 2004)
Viola novae-angliae seed capsules. Pencil drawing.

My impression of this viola is that it is very close in characteristics to V. septentrionalis. Brainerd has already noted that the range is very similar, and I think I was finding intermediate forms between the two, with the elongated leaves, but blue flowers, with and without hairs on the auricles, and always fine short hairs on the margin of the sepals. The pattern of pubescent is almost identical for the leaves, petioles and peduncles. The hairs on the lateral and spurred petal are identical, as is the white at the base of the petals. I did not find that the underside of the leaves of V. septentrionalis is always marked with purple, as noted by either or both Brainerd and Baird. The only feature that I still think is very different will be if the plants I have collected from below the Flanagan Crag lookout tower, Douglas County, Wisconsin (herbarium specimens from this site had been verified by Harvey Ballard as being V. n-a.) have red-purple flowers and sepals with no cilia on the margins. The leaves are smaller than V. septentrionalis and the proportion of length to width is a little larger. The petioles and peduncles of both species are long. There were not many leaves per plant on the lookout site. I will watch to record the length of the peduncles of cleistogamous pods of both species, as this would be another feature that may separate these two species from V. sororia. I think that V. septentrionalis and V. novae-angliae should be grouped together, rather than V. sororia and V. septentrionalis. Also observe how many leaves per plant, because at the tower site, all plants that I collected had only a few leaves, and all had elongated white leaf bases on the rhizome, i.e. nodes were not condensed, and rhizomes were not thick. Lateral roots are strong, straight, unbranching for at least the first inch and often more. On new unfolding leaves, the petioles are strong, but at the point of attachment to the leaf, the petiole is very narrow, and the leaves are held at an inclined position, initially upside down moving to about 100-110 degrees from the petiole, and then turning upwards to a vertical position after the leaf has fully uncurled. This does not apply to well-developed leaves, where the petioles are constant width. The leaf margin is narrowly decurrent onto the petiole but only for the top third. The under side of the leaves is green. Hispid hairs on the lower surface veins are longer than those on the veins of the top surface. There are also hairs on the top lamina towards the tip, and on the basal lobes towards the margin. Long hispid hairs on the leaf margin, and for the whole length of the petiole. The peduncles also have long hairs but mostly below the bracteoles. Bracteoles short, less than 1 mm long, inserted at about the middle of the peduncle. Stipules very short, lanceolate to long triangular, with glandular-tipped fimbriae on the margin, not adnate. Pods are purple, on purple peduncles, with purple sepals and auricles, below the leaves on short inclined to prostrate peduncles. In this characteristic, V. novae-angliae (from Flanagan lookout) is similar to V. affinis. Colour of seeds?? Seeds from Flanagan Crag, Wisconsin, olive green, 1.8mm long (seed 1.5 = aril 0.3 mm) x 0.9 mm, lightly speckled, large, long colourless elaiosome.


Two plants that I photographed beside the west branch of the Penobscot River had varying amounts of pubescence on the petioles, leaves peduncles, sepals and auricles. The darker ones were more pubescent I think, check notes, but it doesn’t really matter which is which. What I am trying to say is that the leaf pubescence is variable and these may also be intermediate forms between V. septentrionalis and V. novae-angliae again because the leaves are more elongated, and the site fits the description of the range in Maine, and the habitat conditions. I think there may be more hybridization and therefore intermediate forms than have been previously recognized.


Flowers from the plant photographed from the site in Amnicon Falls State Park, Douglas County, Wisconsin, June 13, 2004, were large, 2.9 x 2.9 cm, white in the centre of all of the petals, but most obvious on the lowest three. Long, straight, dense, obvious hairs on the interior surface of the lowest three petals. Lowest spurred petal notched at the tip. Spur saccate, rounded at end, 3.5 x 3.5, light purple colour. Sepals with short cilia on the margin of the sepals, but no hairs on the auricles. Auricles green, heavy, stout, 1-1.5 mm long. By definition in key of Brainerd, see below, this cannot be pure V. novae-angliae because it has short cilia on the margin of the sepals, so be careful with drawings.


Plants from Flanagan Crag, emerging in spring 2005 have purple petioles, purple leaf buds which are the backs of the leaves, leaves opening to green on the inside with purple veins, purple flower buds.


Notes from collection sites on specimen sheets in Wisconsin State Herbarium database, University of Wisconsin – Madison, all specimens annotated by H. Ballard:

  • Alder, willow shrub swamp at edge of pipeline corridor. Calamograstis canadensis, Alnus incana, Salix gracilis, Salix pyrifolia, Equisetum sp., locally abundant.
  • Cattail marsh, forested upland, shrub complex. Populus tremuloides, Poa spp., Aster umbellatus, rare.
  • Powerline corridor, sedge meadow. Calamograstis canadensis, Carex lacustris, Aster umbellatus, Alnus incana.
  • Shaded lowland area.
  • Growing in an open area that had been mowed earlier in the year; on the edge of a wood; some dandelions nearby; dark soil with some sand, nearby trees include white pine and paper birch.
  • Uncanopied, grassy, sandy field with Comandra umbellata, Fragaria virginiana, Achillea millefolium, Viola conspersa, V. lanceolata (Brown County).
  • Grassy area along road, with Commandra umbelata, Heuchera richardsonii.
  • Low moist woods edge.
  • Flowers deep purple.
  • Moist, marly [marl = kind of rich soil often used as manure] sand at about the high water line around lake.
  • In the shade of Pinus strobus at crest of bank along road, along Wisconsin River.
  • Drosera site. Moist acid sandy meadow, with Polygala sanguinea, Viola lanceolata, Oenothera perennis, Comandra umbellata. (Oconto County).
  • Grazed wet meadow with Alnus thickets, Carex spp., Lilium michiganense. “Black muck” soil. (Old drained Larix swamp?) Low ditch along side of embankment of drainage ditch. Cleistogenes prostrate, hairs too long on foliage, too spreading for V. sagittata. This comment by HEB (Harvey Ballard, and his hang-up about V. sagittata being vertical. Remember the site for V. sagittata ssp. ovata where the leaves were prostrate at top of the site, but in a drainage ditch with moss in a wet spring, the leaves were vertical.)
  • Sandy, vernally moist west bank of the Wisconsin River, edge of pine-hardwoods, with Corylus [hazel, Betulaceae] understory, river fringed by silver maple, alder, willow.
  • Open dry woods. Mixed collection with V. sagittata, cucullata x novae-angliae? [Not sure which of these is the correct name for whatever it was growing with.]
  • Mixed collection with Viola sagittata.
  • Flowering times:
  • May 4- June 20, in Wisconsin.


August, 2004:

Seed pods born on horizontal peduncles. Pod/capsule length 0.6 cm, darkly spotted with black-purple(fusco-violaceae) or red-purple on green background (different colour on each two different plants, both from the same fire-tower location in Wisconsin).

Seeds eaten by rodents, but they are probably buff coloured, like affinis. These seed pods must be the link with, or likeness to, V. affinis that Harvey claims.

Auricles fusco-violaceae, 1 mm long, narrow with truncate ends, all glabrous; sepals also fusco-violacea, glabrous.

Peduncles fusco-violacea at top or red-purple, lower down are partly green, scabrid at top. Bracteoles above the middle, dark brown, dead but persistent (word?), 0.7-0.8 mm long, with few short glandular tipped projections at base.


From Key of Brainerd:

Viola novae-angliae has NO hairs on sepals or auricles and longer leaves than V. septentrionalis. The latter has cilia on the margin of the sepals and auricles.

Therefore, the plant I collected from Flanagan Crag is definitely V. novae-angliae.

For V. novae-angliae, distribution is one of the clues to species identification.

Characteristics of V. novae-angliae:

  • long-ovate leaves
  • no hairs on sepal margins
  • far northern and n-e location
  • large white ‘eye’
  • hairs on 3 lowest petals

compare with V. cucullata:

  • long-ovate leaves
  • bluer flowers, hooded markings
  • clavate hairs on two lateral petals only

and V. hirsutula:

  • hairs on 3 lowest petals
  • hirsute upper leaf surface
  • rounded to slighly pointed leaves

and V. affinis:

  • long-ovate leaves, pointed
  • hairs on 3 lowest petals
  • glabrous upper leaf surface
  • paler flowers

Ezra Brainerd, Notes on New England Violet – II, Rhodora, vol 7, 1905:

It is a very close ally of V. septenrionalis. In fact, I find only two evident characters by which it can be distinguished from that species: the narrowness of the leaf and the absence of ciliation in the sepals. The two species are alike in pubescence, in the color of the petals, in the bearded spurred petal, in having sagittate cleistogamous flowers on short declined peduncles, and in the size, color and shape of the capsules. In mid-summer the leaf and the capsule of V. novae-angliae naturally attain to a greater development than is indicated in Mr. House’s dimensions, and the leaf loses the thinness of texture of which he speaks. Plants of V. septentriolis x fimbriatula are sometimes confused with V. novae-angliae.

The new species seems to be known only from the two stations along the River St. John, on the northern boundary of Maine. Judging from its associations and its affinity to V. septentrionalis, it is more likely to be found hereafter northward or eastward, in Quebec orin New Brunswick, than southward in New England as a whole. The name V. novae-angliae, consequently, t