Viola odorata (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Viola odorata L.

Protologue: Sp. pl. 2: 934 (1753).

Vernacular names

  • Sweet violet, purple violet, March violet (En).
  • Violette odorante, violette de mars (Fr)
  • Indonesia: atanan (Sundanese)
  • Philippines: violeta (Tagalog)
  • Thailand: waiolet (Bangkok)
  • Vietnam: hoa tím th[on]m.


Native to Europe, North Africa and western Asia. Widely cultivated in gardens in the temperate zone, in the tropics (including Java and the Philippines) cultivated at higher altitudes.


The crushed aerial parts are applied for rheumatism and to ulcers, sores, swellings and cuts. The leaves are emollient and preparations are used internally and externally in the treatment of cancer. The flowers enter many pharmacopoeias throughout the world, especially for their diuretic and expectorant properties. The syrup made from the flowers is a well-known medicine for cough, colds, asthma and hoarseness. In large doses, the rhizomes and seeds are poisonous.


  • A perennial herb, up to 30 cm tall, rhizome stout, vertical, bearing a rosette of leaves and long, procumbent rooting stems at apex.
  • Leaves orbicular-reniform to orbicular-ovate, 2.5-6 cm × 2.5-6.5 cm, base deeply cordate, rounded or obtuse, apex rounded, margins shallowly crenate, glabrous or sparsely pubescent on veins and margins, petiole up to 20 cm long, stipules ovate to ovate-lanceolate, 8-12 mm × 3-5 mm, usually glandular-fimbriate, glabrous, free.
  • Flowers 10-15 mm in diameter, purple or white, peduncle 5-14 cm long, slender, sepals ovate, 5 mm long, margins ciliate, appendage 1-2 mm long, dentate, petals broadly obovate, lateral ones bearded or not, spur 4 mm long, usually straight; style 2 mm long, curved at apex.
  • Capsule globose, pubescent, with mechanism for explosive seed dispersal; seed with small elaiosome.

V. odorata is commonly planted in Java, from sea-level to the hills. In V. odorata several single- and double-flowered cultivars are known.

Selected sources

  • Burkill, I.H., 1966. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Revised reprint. 2 volumes. Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Vol. 1 (A-H) pp. 1-1240, Vol. 2 (I-Z) pp. 1241-2444.

221, 668, 1006, 1051.


G.H. Schmelzer & S.F.A.J. Horsten

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