Illinois Native State Flower

Native Violet

Illinois State Flower - Native Violet

(Viola sororia)

Adopted on July 1, 1908.

Illinois was the first of four states to choose the violet, (Viola sororia,) as its state flower. The violet was selected to be Illinois' state flower by schoolchildren in 1908. As a result of the contest, Senator Andrew J. Jackson of Rockford sponsored a bill in the Illinois Legislature to make the violet the official flower of the state. On January 21, 1908 the native violet, (Viola sororia,) was approved as the official state flower of the State of Illinois.

The violet is also the state flower for New Jersey, Rhode Island; and Wisconsin.

The legislation did not specify a specific variety of violet but, according to the Illinois State Museum, the dooryard or common violet (Viola sororia) is the most common species in the state and was probably the intended "native violet" of Senator Jackson's Bill. In State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols (1939), Shankle suggested

"The State legislature on February 21, 1908, declared the native violet (probably the wood violet, or the Bird-foot violet, Viola dedate) to be the State flower of Illinois. This law went into effect on July 1, 1908."

Illinois Navitive State Flower: Native Violet

Illinois State Flower - Native Violet

Although its name suggests its color, the Illinois violet comes in many colors including yellow, white, blue-violet, lilac-purple, and even an unusual green! There are at least 30 common violet species in Illinois with at least 25 types found in the Chicago area alone. Most species have small flowers (about 1 inch to 1-1/2 inches across) usually containing five petals.

Violets are found in all kinds of sites from sunny prairies and lawns to shady woods and wetlands. The flowering season of the violet depends on the species and spans from mid-March to June. The whole violet is a favorite meal of rabbits, while mice, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse and mourning doves eat only the seeds.

One violet species is nicknamed "Johnny Jump-up" and many others have been the subject of poems and nursery rhymes. They have also been called "nature's vitamin pill." Believe it or not, violets are high in vitamin A and contain more vitamin C (ounce for ounce) than oranges!

The law that made the violet the state flower designated the "blue violet." Unfortunately, Gleason and Cronquist recognize approximately eight species of blue-flowered violets in the state. The most common of these is the dooryard violet (Viola sororia).

The dooryard violet is certainly one of the most recognizable native wildflowers in the state. It is also one of the most easily grown; it grows in anything from full sunlight to deep shade.

Many types of violets, including the dooryard violet, produce two kinds of flowers. The large showy flowers that people associate with the plants are common in the spring. After the showy flowers have bloomed, the plant produces small, closed flowers on short stems near the ground. These flowers look like small buds. It is these small, closed flowers that produce most of the seeds.

The showy flowers are edible. The petals are frequently covered with sugar and used as decorations on cakes.

Identification of the Native Violet

  • Family: Violet (Violaceae)
  • Habitat: woods, meadows, waste areas
  • Height: 3-8 inches
  • Flower size: 3/4 to 1 inch wide
  • Flower color: blue-purple, occasionally white or bicolor
  • Flowering time: April to June
  • Origin: native

The Illinois Compiled Statutes

The law designating the native violet as the official Illinois state flower is found in the Illinois Compiled Statutes, Government, Chapter 5, State Designations Act, Section 40.

(5 ILCS 460/) State Designations Act.
(5 ILCS 460/40) (from Ch. 1, par. 2901-40)

Sec. 40. State tree and flower. The white oak tree is designated the native State tree of the State of Illinois; and the native violet is designated the native State flower of the State of Illinois.

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Native Violet

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
    Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
    Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
    Subclass: Dilleniidae
Order: Violales
Family: Violaceae - Violet family
Genus: Viola L. - violet
Species: Viola sororia Willd. - common blue violet

State Flowers
State Floral Emblems
Flowers & Floral Emblems