Sunday, May 31, 2009

North Shore violet days

I love violets. Dainty fragile-looking woodland flowers, they're not the first North Shore flowers to bloom, but they roll out the best rainbow of colors, popping up here and there on the forest floor to the surprise and delight of anyone with an eye for the smaller things. I may try to be a manly man, but these little bursts of color really tickle my fancy.

This Friday I hiked the Middle Falls Trail at Grand Portage State Park. This is a terrific hike, and I'll come back to it in later postings.

But the violets! Famous Duluth cartoonist Chris Monroe has her regular strip, Violet Days, and I think I know why she calls it that. Violets are cool, tough, and pretty, like the characters in her strip.

At first, you'd think that all violets should be colored, well, violet. Like this one:

This is the Common Blue Violet, and it was growing in a low wet area next to the trail. Yes, it is a reddish-blue. But the historically, the flower was first, and the name of the color came afterward. Like "orange" was a fruit before it was a color.

What makes violets so lovable is all the other cute colors they come in.

Here's a white violet. growing in dry pine woods right along the Middle Falls Trail. I think it's called Kidney-Leaved Violet, or Viola renifolia:

But wait, we're not done yet. In sunny places along the trail, there were large bunches of this guy:

It's Viola pubescens, or Downy Yellow Violet.

I know it sounds really sappy, but these little cuties really make my day.

And, in the Who Knew? category, thanks to St. Olaf College, here are some fun facts about violets:
  • The veining you see in the flower petals is actually an ultraviolet color, which attracts insects and guides them to the pollen.
  • The Downy Yellow Violet, seen above, puts its seeds into explosive seed pods, helping to disperse the seeds.
  • Other violets rely on ants to carry their seeds.
So get out there soon to catch this great little North Shore show.

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