What Is The State Flower Of Illinois?

The Blue Violet, also known under its scientific name Viola sororia, is the Illinois state flower. Commonly referred to as the common blue violet or dooryard violet, this species belongs to the Viola genus and is known for its showy flowers.

The violet flowers symbolizes loyalty, humility, and faithfulness, it has become an emblem of Illinois’ natural beauty.

The state of Illinois is also home to other native plants such as big bluestem and milkweed plants. These plants contribute to the natural beauty of the state with their closed flowers.


Fun fact: Violets are one of the February birth flowers, along with primroses. Violets typically have heart-shaped leaves and asymmetrical flowers that vary in color.

So, whether you live in Illinois or just curious about this beautiful state’s flower,  join us as we walk through the history, meaning, and symbolism of the Violet, as well as learn more about its appearance and gardening tips.

History Of The Violet As State Flower

Choosing the state flower of Illinois was a contentious decision. During the Chicago World Fair in 1893, there were discussions as to which flower should be chosen. Should it be the beautiful purple iris? Or maybe the stunning primrose? Or, if it was to be the violet, should it be sweet violets, dog violets, or wild pansies?   (Pansies are a cross between viola lutea, viola tricolor, and wild violets)

The decision finally came on January 21, 1908, when the state officially chose the Violet flower to become the state flower of Illinois.

The violet’s cultural significance extends beyond its history in Illinois; it has also found its way into literature. Renowned authors such as Carl Sandburg, who hailed from Galesburg, IL, have immortalized violets in their poems. Sandburg’s verses capture the essence of the violet’s beauty and evoke emotions associated with this humble flower. Through his words, he highlights the allure of violets and their ability to inspire creativity.

Diving deeper into history, violets were used in Rome for remembrance and protection from diseases. 

In Christianity, violets symbolize the Virgin Mary’s humility. The name “violet” is derived from the Latin word “viola,” meaning “violet flower” or “violet color.” Ancient Greeks and Romans used violets in love potions and herbal remedies.

The religious and cultural significance of violet flowers is noteworthy, such as symbolizing “our lady of modesty” in Christianity. Napoleon Bonaparte even declared violets as his signature flower.

Symbolism and Meaning of the Violet Flower

Symbolically speaking, violets represent delicate love, affection, faithfulness, modesty, nobility, dignity, and intuition.

The big bluestem, a tall grass native to Illinois, holds great significance as the state flower and reflects the state’s commitment to preserving its native flora. Serving as a symbol of Illinois, the violet represents the rich natural heritage and beauty of this Midwestern state.

Illinois is blessed with an abundance of diverse plant life, including milkweeds, grass, and trees. The violet, with its delicate purple petals and sweet fragrance, captivates the hearts of both residents and visitors alike. Designating the violet as the state flower showcases Illinois’ appreciation for its unique natural wonders, such as pollen.


Characteristics and Appearance of the Illinois State Flower – Violet

As previously mentioned, violets hold state symbols in Illinois, Rhode Island, and New Jersey in the US. With approximately 400 to 500 species in the Viola genus, there is great diversity among them.

There are several species of violets found in Illinois, including the white oak violet.

The most common one is Viola sororia, also known as the common blue violet or meadow violet. This species boasts deep blue-violet petals with darker veins running through them. Its blooms are abundant during springtime in various habitats across Illinois.

In addition to the white Viola sororia, other native violet species like the white Viola pedata (bird’s-foot violet), with its unique divided leaves resembling bird tracks, can be found throughout different regions in Illinois. Another native violet species is the white Viola pubescens (downy yellow violet) with its yellow flowers. Additionally, the white Viola cucullata (marsh blue violet) thrives in wetland areas.

Violets have heart-shaped leaves and asymmetrical flowers with five petals. Colors can range from blue to yellow to cream to white to purple.

Another captivating aspect of violets is their fragrance, which is particularly sweet. It emits  a scent that attracts pollinators from far and wide, these purple flowers are essential for bees and butterflies.

Violets are perennial plants capable of self-pollination. They prefer shaded grounds and hedgerows where deciduous trees provide shade.

Importance of Native Plants in Illinois

Violets offer practical benefits to gardeners across Illinois. These versatile flowers can be cultivated easily in home gardens due to their adaptability to different soil types and light conditions.

Their low maintenance requirements make them an ideal choice for novice gardeners looking to add color to their landscapes. Violets also attract pollen, making them beneficial for pollinators like bees and butterflies. Additionally, violets can be used as a flag in gardens to mark specific areas or highlight certain features. The flowers also have a unique fluorite-like pattern on their petals, adding visual interest to any garden.

Native plants, such as the dooryard violet, are crucial for maintaining ecological balance in Illinois ecosystems. These white flowers are adapted to local climate conditions and require less maintenance compared to non-native species. That’s why incorporating them into sustainable landscaping practices is essential throughout the state.

In addition to supporting wildlife, native plants also help prevent soil erosion and improve water quality by absorbing excess nutrients. Their extensive root systems act as natural filters, capturing sediment and reducing runoff into nearby water bodies. This helps maintain the health of rivers, lakes, and streams while minimizing the risk of harmful algal blooms caused by nutrient pollution.

By planting native species in gardens and landscapes across Illinois, individuals can make a significant impact on preserving the state’s natural heritage. Here are some examples:

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa): This vibrant orange wildflower is not only a favorite among monarch butterflies but also serves as a host plant for their caterpillars.

Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis): This perennial grass features delicate foliage that adds texture to any landscape while providing seeds for various bird species.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea): Known for its distinctive purple petals, this coneflower attracts bees and other pollinators while adding visual appeal to gardens.

Furthermore, incorporating native plants into urban areas can help mitigate the heat island effect—a phenomenon where cities experience higher temperatures due to the abundance of concrete and asphalt. Native trees, such as oaks and maples, provide shade and reduce energy consumption by cooling surrounding areas.

Beautiful purple pansy flowers, a member of the violet family

Growing Violets in Illinois: Tips and Tricks

Violets are delicate and beautiful flowers that add a touch of charm to any garden.

If you’re a gardener in Illinois, you may be wondering how to successfully grow violets in the local climate. Here are some tips and tricks to help you cultivate these lovely blooms.

Partial Shade is Preferred

Violets thrive in partial shade, making them an excellent choice for gardens with trees or structures that provide some relief from direct sunlight. While they can tolerate some sunlight, too much exposure may cause their leaves to scorch or the flowers to wilt prematurely. Aim for a location that receives dappled sunlight throughout the day.

Well-Drained Soil with Organic Matter

To ensure healthy growth, violets require well-drained soil enriched with organic matter. The ideal soil composition should retain enough moisture for the plants without becoming waterlogged. Consider adding compost or well-rotted manure to improve drainage and increase fertility. This will provide your violets with the necessary nutrients for robust growth.

Propagation Methods

There are two common methods for propagating violets: seeds and division of existing plants. If you choose to start from seeds, sow them indoors during late winter or early spring. Keep the soil consistently moist until germination occurs. Once seedlings have developed several leaves, transplant them outdoors after the last frost.

Alternatively, division is another effective way to propagate violets. Carefully dig up an established plant and separate it into smaller clumps, ensuring each division has its own set of roots and leaves. Replant these divisions in prepared soil at the same depth as before.

Regular Watering and Mulching

Violets appreciate regular watering to maintain adequate moisture levels in their root zone. However, it’s crucial not to overwater them as soggy conditions can lead to root rot. A good rule of thumb is to water when the top inch of soil feels dry.

Mulching around your violets can help retain moisture, suppress weed growth, and regulate soil temperature. Organic mulches like wood chips or shredded leaves work well for violets. Apply a layer of mulch around the plants, keeping it a few inches away from the stems to prevent rotting.

Embracing the Beauty of the Illinois State Flower – Violet

In conclusion, the Illinois state flower, the Violet, holds great significance and beauty.

Its characteristics and appearance make it a beloved symbol in Illinois. As a native plant, it plays an essential role in preserving the state’s natural ecosystem. The cultural and historical connections associated with Violets further enhance their importance.

Conservation efforts for the Illinois state flower are crucial to ensure its survival and continued presence in the region. By understanding how to grow Violets successfully, individuals can contribute to their preservation.

In embracing the beauty of Violets, we encourage you to explore these vibrant flowers within your own garden or local environment. By doing so, you not only support conservation efforts but also add a touch of natural splendor to your surroundings.

Remember that Violets are more than just pretty flowers – they represent a part of Illinois’ heritage and natural diversity. Let us all appreciate and protect this remarkable state symbol.


Can I grow Violets indoors?

Yes! While Violets thrive outdoors, they can also be grown indoors as long as they receive sufficient sunlight and proper care.

Are there different types of Violets in Illinois?

Yes, several species of Violets can be found in Illinois, each with its unique characteristics and colors.

How do I attract Violets to my garden?

To attract Violets to your garden, create a suitable habitat by providing moist soil rich in organic matter and ample shade.

Are Violets easy to maintain?

Generally speaking, Violets are low-maintenance plants that require minimal care once established. However, regular watering and occasional fertilization can help them thrive.

Can I use pesticides on my Violet plants?

It is advisable to avoid using pesticides on Violet plants, as they can be sensitive to chemical treatments. Instead, opt for natural pest control methods if necessary.

Can I use Violets for culinary purposes?

Yes! Violets have a delicate flavor and are often used in culinary creations such as salads, desserts, and teas.

Are Violets endangered in Illinois?

While some Violet species may face threats due to habitat loss, overall, Violets are not considered endangered in Illinois. However, it is important to support conservation efforts to maintain their abundance.

Where can I find wild Violets in Illinois?

Wild Violets can be found throughout various natural areas in Illinois, including woodlands, prairies, and wetlands. Take a stroll through these environments to catch a glimpse of their beauty.

Can I transplant wild Violets into my garden?

It is generally best to avoid transplanting wild Violets from their natural habitats. Instead, consider purchasing nursery-grown varieties specifically cultivated for gardens.


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