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Wisconsin is a state located in the northern United States. It has many symbols, including a state bird, tree, animal, and flower. The wood violet, also known as Viola papilonarea, has been the official state flower of Wisconsin since 1949. This plant is characterized by purple blossoms atop a thick stem. It is a wild flower which primarily grows in the wet woodlands of the Badger State.
In 1908, the United States recognized a need for each state to identify its own flower. On Arbor Day 1909, schoolchildren voted to make the wood violet the state flower of Wisconsin. For the next 30 years, this plant was an unofficial state symbol, and the legislature made it an official state flower in 1949.
The wood violet was chosen as the state flower of Wisconsin primarily because it is a native species. It is a wildflower which thrives in very wet areas, especially those that are heavily forested. This plant is a perennial which becomes dormant in the fall, surviving the harsh winters of the region to reappear in mid spring.
Most specimens have four or five oblong petals which are dark blue or purple. Some varieties may be very pale and nearly white. Wood violets with pale blossoms may have light blue or violet streaks on them.
The petals of the state flower of Wisconsin sit atop a dark green stem which is very thick but not woody. There are normally pairs of heart-shaped leaves that sit close to the ground. These leaves are also dark green, and each leaf is very large in proportion to the blossom. The flowers tend to grow in clusters, making them sometimes appear to be a ground cover.
In the early 1900s, the wood violet was often picked and eaten by settlers. Many people preferred to use this flower when making salads, while others would cook the leaves and stems of the plant much like wild greens. In modern times, the state flower of Wisconsin is still eaten, but is typically used to make jelly or is sometimes candied.
As the state flower of Wisconsin, the wood violet is a state symbol that is in keeping with the state's natural beauty and rich history. It flourishes in all regions of Wisconsin, allowing people in all parts of the state to enjoy its brilliant blossoms. People who happen upon this state flower should take care not to disturb it in order to make sure future generations are able to enjoy this magnificent species.
I always associate the Wisconsin state flower with Valentine's Day. When I was twelve, my sweet little boyfriend picked a batch of these and put them in a glass bottle filled with water for me.
He also gave me a handwritten note. He had glued one of the heart-shaped violet leaves to the middle of the paper to symbolize the word “love” in “I love you.” Those leaves have such a distinctive shape that I could not have mistaken the symbolized heart for anything else.
We had ups and downs and breakups and reunions, but we eventually got married. Every year now on Valentine's Day, he gives me a handpicked bunch of wild violets. I can't think of any gift I'd rather have.
@seag47 – I think these wild violets grow in just about any shady area. I have seen this Wisconsin flower growing in both Alabama and Tennessee, as well.
The rich purple color is striking, especially in the deep shade. It really stands out there amongst the dark green leaves and black earth.
The blooms I have seen all have yellow centers with light streaks leading outward toward the petals. I used to pick them and iron them between sheets of wax paper to make pressed flower displays. Wood violets were always my choice for this, because their intense color showed up well underneath the wax paper.
Wisconsin's state flower is common in Mississippi, too. I have seen the wood violet growing wild around here since I was a child.
The yard I grew up in was covered almost entirely by shade trees. Wood violets appeared at random, and I thought they were so beautiful. To me, it was so special that this lovely purple flower popped up without being planted.
I've never eaten any, but my cousin tells me that they taste good. I'd be more willing to try violet jam than greens, though, because I prefer sweet over bitter.
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