Violets are the birth flower of February, and the lovely blooms symbolize loyalty, making them the perfect gift. These purple blossoms are a lot more than just pretty fragrant florals, though. Take a look at these seven fun facts about the beautiful and interesting flower:
1. There Are Hundreds of Different Species
There are between 400 and 500 species of violets, which span dozens of countries across the world. The most common species of violet found in the U.S. – though there are around 60 species found in the country – is the blue violet, or Viola sororia. Sweet violets, also called Viola odorata, are known for their scent. And while they can also be found in the U.S., they're native to Europe and Asia. Despite their name, African violets are actually not a species of violet – they're part of the Gesneriaceae family, which includes other flowering house plants.
2. Violets Have Been Around Since Ancient Greece
True violets have been cultivated for centuries, with the earliest known use of the flowers dating back to Ancient Greece in 500 B.C., if not earlier. The Greeks used violets in their wines, foods and medicines, and they actually loved the flower so much that it became the symbol of Athens.
3. Most Violets Adapt to Their Environments
Though most violets prefer shady and cool areas with moist soil, the blooms are known for being hardy and able to adapt to most environments. That's because the flowers grow in many different climates and habitats worldwide, including woodlands, deserts and marshes. This is not to be confused with African violets, which prefer warm and humid surroundings.
4. Violets Are the Illinois State Flower
Illinois and Wisconsin both recognize violets as their state flower. The most common species of the flower found in Illinois is the dooryard violet, which can grow in almost any environment. Dooryard violets actually bloom twice a year, and typically have blossoms that are more purple than blue. Illinois schoolchildren voted to make the violet the Illinois state flower in 1907.
5. Violets Were Napoleon Bonaparte's Signature Flower
Notorious French military man and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte declared violets his own signature flower, and used the blooms to cover his wife Josephine's grave when she died in 1814. In fact, he was called Corporal Violet by friends, after promising them he would return from his exile on Elba before violet season. Bonaparte's supporters even used violets to determine if someone was loyal to him, by asking them if they liked the flowers – only a response of "Eh, bien" proved loyalty, according to the American Violet Society.
6. Violets Have Some Nutritional Value
Many people use violets in recipes for a variety of savory dishes, and the petals are commonly coated with sugar and used on cakes, chocolates and pastries as sweet garnishes. What many people don't know about the edible flowers is that they're actually fairly nutritious. The petals and stems of violets contain high amounts of vitamin C, an antioxidant that can improve the immune system and overall health. In fact, the flower has more vitamin C than most other vegetables.
7. The Flowers are Known for Their Elusive Smell
One thing violets are known most for is the fact that they have a lovely scent that seems to go away after just one sniff. That's because the flowers contain a chemical called ionine which desensitizes the nose and sense of smell temporarily. Still, the scent is widely used in perfumes, lotions and oils because it's so well-liked.
If you love violets, there's no better time than now to order your sweetheart Teleflora's Violets and Butterflies arrangement or Sweet Violet Trio basket. Surprise her by having one hand-delivered to her office or home!