dimanche 20 mars 2016

Nymphs' flowers

Among the large number of species of violets we can find two in the woods around here: the common violet (Viola odorata) and the less common white violet (viola alba).


Viola odorata is a species of the genus Viola native to Europe and Asia, but has also been introduced to North America and Australia. It is commonly known as wood violet, sweet violet, English violet and common violet. The plant is known as Banafsa, Banafsha or Banaksa in India.

It is a hardy herbaceous flowering perennial. The flowers are aromatic, the heart shaped leaves and flowers are all in a basal rosette, the plant spreads with stolons (above-ground shoots). The colored flowers are sterile while small greenish flowers contain seeds disseminated thanks to ants (myrmechory) as already seen with the Hellebore (post 3 December 2015), the snowdrop (post 24 January 2016) and Common gorse (post 19 February 2016).

The violet flower was a favorite in ancient Greece and became the symbol of Athens. Scent suggested sex, so the violet was an emblematic flower of Aphrodite. The goddess Persephone and her companion Nymphs were gathering rose, crocus, violet, iris, lily and larkspur blooms in a springtime meadow when she was abducted by the god Hades.
During the Middle Age the flowers was said aphrodisiac and put in pillows. In herbal medicine, V. odorata has been used for a variety of diseases.

The violet leaf absolute however remains widely used in modern perfumery. The leaves are edible.

Together with perfumes, candied violets are still made commercially in the nearby city of Toulouse, where they are known as violettes de Toulouse. They are used as decorating or included in aromatic desserts.
Here is one receipt for candied violets (Spanish version):
Viola species are also used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species like Issoria lathonia.

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