081. Viola odorata. Sweet violet.

Botanical name: 

081. Viola odorata. 081. Viola odorata. C. Synonyma. Viola. Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Viola martia purpurea, flore simplice odoro. Bauh. Pin. p. 199. J. Bauh. Hist. ii. p. 542. Raii Hist. p. 1049. Synop. 364.
Viola nigra sive purpurea. Gerard. Emac. p. 550.
Viola simplex martia. Park. Parad. p. 282.
Viola acaulis stolonifera, foliis cordatis. Hall. Stirp. Helv. n. 558.
Viola odorata acaulis, foliis cordatis, stolonibus reptantibus, bractaeis supra medium pedunculi. Curtis Flor. Lond.
Varietates sunt,
α Viola martia purpurea, flore simplice odoro. C. Bauh. l. c. p. 199. Purple Flowered Sweet Violet.
β Viola martia alba. C. Bauh. l. c. p. 199. White Flowered Sweet Violet.
γ Viola martia multiplici flore. C. Bauh. l. c. p. 199. Double Flowered Sweet Violet. [Vide Aiton's Hort. Kew.]

Class Syngenesia. Ord. Monogamia. Lin. Gen. Plant. 1007.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Cal. 5-phyllus. Cor. 5-petala, irregularis, postice cornuta. Caps. supera, 3-valvis, 1-locularis,
Spec. Char. V. acaulis, fol. cordatis: stolonibus reptantibus.

The root is perennial, knobbed, whitish, and furnished with long fibres: the leaves are heart-shaped, veined, crenated, or slightly scolloped at the edges, on the upper side smooth, and of a shining green colour, underneath paler, somewhat hairy, and stand upon long smooth footstalks: the stipulae are membranous, lance-shaped, minutely serrated, and chiefly produced from the root: the peduncles are usually about four inches long, and somewhat above the middle furnished with two pointed bracteae, below which the peduncle is quadrangular, but above it is grooved on the back, bent downwards at the top, and supports a single flower: the calyx is composed of five leafits, persistent, oval, obtuse, protuberant at the base, and tinged with a dark purplish colour: the corolla consists of five irregular petals, of a bluish purple colour; the two lateral petals are bearded towards the base, and the claw of the undermost formed into a horn-shaped nectarium: the five filaments are very short: the anthers are bilocular, slightly joined together, yellowish, and terminated by an oval membrane of an orange colour: from behind two of the antherae there arises a flat greenish appendage, which is inserted in the nectarium: the germen is orbicular: the style twisted, and supplied with a hooked stigma: the capsule is roundish, compressed, separated by three valves, and contains several roundish light-coloured seeds. It is common near warm hedges, and on ditch banks, and flowers in March and April.

This species of violet may be distinguished from the Viola hirta, to which it bears a great resemblance, by the latter having its leaves and footstalks beset with small hairs; by not sending off creeping shoots which strike root; by its flowers being inodorous, and of a fainter blue colour; and by the bracteae being placed somewhat below the middle of the scapus or peduncle. [This last circumstance was first noticed by Mr. Curtis, who introduced it into the specific character.]

The Viola odorata is evidently the (greek) of Theophrastus, and the (greek) of Dioscorides; ["Viola, quasi vitula, Graecis (greek) ab Io Puella in vaccam a Jove conversam, dicta censetur. Matthiol. Viola per diminutionem a Graeco dicta est, spiritu leni in literam converso, ut in aliis multis." Raii Hist. p. 1049.] it was also well known to the Arabian physicians, as Mesue commends its use highly in various inflammatory diseases. Viola is likewise frequently mentioned by the Latin poets, who allude to its effects as a vulnerary. [Vide Ovid Metamorph. lib. x. v. 190.] The recent flowers only are now received in the catalogues of the Materia Medica; they have an agreeable sweet smell, and a mucilaginous bitterish taste; to water they readily give out both their virtue and their fine flavour, but scarcely impart any tincture to rectified spirit, though they impregnate the spirit with their flavour. [Vide Lewis's Mat. Med. p. 664.] These flowers taken in the quantity of a dram or two are said to be gently purgative or laxative, and according to Bergius, and some others, they possess an anodyne and pectoral quality. The officinal preparation of these flowers is a syrup, [This syrup is usually prepared from the petals of the cultivated Violet; and Dr. Withering tells us, that at Stratford upon Avon large quantities of the Violet are cultivated for this purpose. l.c.] which to young children answers the purpose of a purgative. This syrup is also found useful in many chemical inquiries to detect an acid or an alkali, the former changing the blue colour to a red, the latter to a green. The seeds of Violets are reported to be strongly diuretic, and useful in gravelly complaints. [See the authorities cited by Murray, App. Med. v. i. p. 519.] The root powdered, in the dose of a dram, proves both emetic and cathartic. [Tournefort Hist. des Plant. de Paris, t. i. p. 291. Henninger Diss. de Viola purpur.]

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.