Species of the Week
Number 40 --
May 14, 2007

In the Species of the Week feature of the Wildwood Web we took a close look at one of the species that lives in Wildwood.  To see the earlier featured species check the Species of the Week archives.


Green Violet

Hybanthus concolor

Green violets are among the least showy of Wildwood's flowers.  The flowers are small and green, and are held close to the stem and dangling under the leaves.  The plant itself is rather ordinary looking, a shrubby herb, up to three feet tall, with furry stems and glossy green leaves.  The shape of the leaf is nothing unusual either, being more or less oval, tapering to a narrow point at the top, and to a narrow leafstalk at the base.  Unless you get up close in late April or early May, when the flowers are blooming, you would probably walk past the plant without a second glance.

However, if you stop to examine the plant you will find the little flowers, only about a quarter inch long, are dainty and elegant.  The flowers are mostly in pairs.  There are five green petals, forming a cup.  These are surrounded by five narrow green sepals that embrace the flower.  Although this is not easy to see in the picture, one of the petals is a little bit longer than the other, and has a small spur at the back. 

Green violets like rich woods and ravines, especially in limestone areas.  It can be found from Ontario to Michigan and Kansas, south to Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas.  There is one patch that I know of in Wildwood, near the south bridge over Connelly's Run on the Riverway.  If you stop on the bridge and look to the southeast you will see a rocky outcropping above the run.  A patch of green violets sits atop these rocks, sharing the space with the much more flamboyant weed, dame's rocket, which has white to deep purple flowers.  This is the only patch of green violets I have ever seen.

The name green violet sounds like an oxymoron, and it is hard to see much in common with the wild and cultivated violets that may be more familiar.  Green violets really are in the Violaceae, or Violet Family, however.  In common with violets, they have one petal larger than the others, a spur at the back of the flower, and narrow sepals.  The Violet Family has about 800 species, most of them in South America.  Most members of the family, about 500 of them, are true violets in the genus Viola.  There are many species of violets in North America, including several species that occur in Wildwood, such as Canada violet, common blue violet, and yellow violet. 

In contrast to the genus Viola, the genus Hybanthus is relatively small, with about 150 species, primarily in the Tropics.  All members of this genus have small, greenish flowers.  There is only one species in eastern North America, the green violet.  Two other species are found in the southwest United States and one in Florida.

The genus name Hybanthus comes from the Greek hybos, meaning "hump-backed," and anthos, meaning "flower," presumably referring to the small spur on the larger petal, which gives the flower a lopsided look, barely noticeable in the picture.  The species name, concolor, means "of the same color" and presumably refers to the flowers being green like the foliage.


Home | Yesterday | Today | Tomorrow | Contact Us