National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Violet (Sweet)

Violet (Sweet)

Viola odorata, family Violaceae
March to May

This scented and seductive violet is linked to Aphrodite the goddess of love. Traditionally it was presented to the bride or bridegroom on the day of their wedding, the flowers were often dried and kept as a memento, hence they are occasionally found in family bibles.

The plant also has a dark side as it is dedicated to Persephone or Proserpina who in classical mythology was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter who whilst picking flowers in the meadow including violets and daffodils was carried off by Hades to the underworld, where she became his Queen Consort. Later she would be released to return to the earth briefly for a few months each year.

The Scottish poet and novelist James Hogg (1770-1835) clearly enjoyed the native flora and fauna. For instance, in his work 'The Forest Minstrel' (1810) he often writes about his love of specific plants including the sweet violet which grows in the Scottish Borders.

How Foolish are Mankind
Far dearer to me is the humble ewe-gowan,
The sweet native violet, or the bud of the broom,
Than the fine fostered flowers in the garden a growing,
Though sweet be their savour and bonnie their bloom.
Far dearer to me is the thrush or the linnet,
than the fine bird from a far foreign tree.

Sweet Violet. Image credit: Patrick Standish, Flickr. CC license
Sweet Violet. Image credit: Friends of Radley Lakes, Flickr. CC license