Viola odorata or Sweet Violet is an evergreen, perennial, woodland plant which grows to about 10cm tall. It is a pretty and useful little plant whose leaves and flowers are edible. All parts of the plant have been used in traditional remedies where it was used to treat cancer and whooping cough. Old herbalists recommended Violets for ague, epilepsy, eye inflammation, pleurisy and jaundice. Syrup of Violets is a laxative, colouring agent and flavouring in some medicines. Violets also contains salicylic acid, which is used to make aspirin, and is therefore effective in the treatment of headaches, migraine and insomnia.
Traditionally, the Violet was the real flower of Valentine’s Day, not the Rose. Valentine was persecuted by a Roman Emperor who imprisoned him. In prison, Valentine would crush the Violet flowers growing outside to make into an ink for writing on the leaves to his friends. A dove collected these messages. He was executed on 14 February 269 AD.
In folklore dreaming of violets will bring good fortune and wearing them round your neck would stop you from getting drunk!
Down in a green and shady bed,
A modest violet grew;
Its stalk was bent, it hung its head
As if to hide from view.
And yet it was a lovely flower,
Its colour bright and fair;
It might have graced a rosy bower,
Instead of hiding there.
Yet thus it was content to bloom,
In modest tints arrayed;
And there diffused a sweet perfume,
Within the silent shade.
Then let me to the valley go
This pretty flower to see;
That I may also learn to grow
In sweet humility.