Sunday, March 30, 2008

State Flower of Illinois

"The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day..."
Dr. Seuss

Larry at Growing Up has suggested we bloggers could participate in a meme about our State, National or Provincial Flower. And since it was too wet and cold to go out and play, I did some research on Illinois's State Flower. I'll admit, I did not know. However, I do now and I will try to share with you what I have learned.

The State flower of Illinois is the Common Wood Violet, violaceae family. In 1907, Mrs. James Fessler launched a campaign to name a state flower and a state tree. The vote was put to school age children with the violet being one of three choices. The goldenrod and the wild rose were the other 2 choices. The violet won by more than 4,000 votes. And so, in 1908 by a bill sponsored by Senator Jackson the violet became our official flower.

The common wood violet is found in a wide variety of habitats including forests, roadsides, meadows, and lawns. It flowers from March thru June, although I have not seen any this year yet. The flowers have five petals and rise up an slender stalks. The leaves are heart-shaped, often with a saw-toothed edge. Color can range from deep purple to almost white and some are purple with a white throat.

The common violet is a perennial that sends out rhizomes from which new growth emerges. But there are also special flowers near the ground that do not open, but produce seeds. It prefers a slightly acid soil... hence the forest growth.

I have heard of candied violets which are real violets dipped in sugar or syrup. What I didn't know is that all parts except the roots are edible. Violets are high in vitamin A and C, and can be eaten raw in a salad or as cooked greens early in the spring. They even make jelly out of them as well as teas. They contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin. They are ground up and used in some herbal medicines for clearing the lungs and stopping coughs. It has been used to lessen boils, help with sleeping, relieve pain from swollen joints, and clear toxins from the blood. That is an awful lot for one little plant to do! I should say here that these claims have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA.

So now, I have learned something new about my state and about the common wood violet, and I hope you have enjoyed reading about them. I think I will enjoy them even more now when I see them blooming in my lawn, along the roads and in with my garden flowers.


Beth said...

What a great idea for a post and what an interesting post on violets. I love woodland violets. I'm glad they are edible and must have known that somehow because I make a spring white cake that I decorate with violets.

Cheryl said...

What a delightful post Beckie. I did a post on the violet a few weeks ago and I absolutely love them. I am so very interested in the medicinal qualities of them. I treat myself with many herbal remedies when needed. That is another one to go on my list. Thank you for an educational visit.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I think the Violet is an under appreciated flower now. It grows so prolifically people don't want them in their garden. They are also a host flower for the caterpillar of the Fritillary butterfly.

Rose said...

Oh, the new things we can learn each day--I had no idea the violet was our state flower! Now I feel guilty; as I told you, they often pop up where I don't want them so I pull them out. Maybe I could transplant them to the spot by the big evergreen where nothing else grows.

Alyssa said...

Hi Beckie - Wild violets are some of the most lovely flowers! They cover large areas of our land and are beautiful. I especially like the white w/purple throat - around here they aren't as common. Little bouquets of them are really sweet! I enjoyed your previous post very much. That sounds like such a fun and interesting day. Between the fun info and all the green and blooming plants (none at our garden centers yet) your day was great! My favorites are catmint, columbine and huechera - deer and bunnie proof! and carefree. Great posts!

Mel said...

Violets are beautiful! Thank you for sharing that information :)

beckie said...

Beth, Thanks! Edible maybe, but I don't think I'd want a salad of them!

Cheryl, I know lots of plants are supposed to be good for you...I don't think I will make tea out of them though!

Lisa, I did read about them hosting butterfly larvae, but forgot to mention it. I always let the violets grow when they come up in my flower beds. I think they are pretty.

Rose, it couldn't hurt to try them there. We are learning by blogging aren't we!!

Alyssa, How pretty it must be to see a whole field of them! Our garden center has lots of plants, but most are small and not in bloom yet. But it is great just being around them.

Mel, you are very welcome!

Kylee said...

Such a wonderful summary of a delightful flower! We have oodles of them here, too and I love them.

Amy said...

I love violets so much :) Have you ever tasted a candied violet? When I was married we used them to decorate the cake.