An herbaceous, and evergreen groundcover, which grows to 10 cm tall, but may spread to form a colony several metres wide, spreading by stolons.
It is a widespread species but only occurs in coastal areas in NSW, from Ulladulla, commonly along the rest of the coast to the north, extending to Fraser Island in Queensland.
It is typically found in coastal headland heath and shrublands; dry sclerophyll woodland and forest on dune swales, along with coastal swamp and rainforest fringes, usually in moist areas.
Viola spp. have simple and alternate leaves, usually with stipules present. In this species, leaves are round to kidney-shaped (reniform), to 2.5 cm wide, with consistent toothing on the margins, light to dark green.
Viola spp. typically produce solitary flowers with 5 sepals and 5 petals with a zygomophic shape (can only be equally folded one way), with 4 more-or-less even petals and a larger anterior petal, arranged almost in a rotate shape. In this species, flowers are solitary, to about 2 x 1.5 cm, produced on stalks from leaf axils, to 15 cm tall, occurring throughout the warmest parts of the year or all year.
The fruits are capsules. In this species, they are white to pale green, to 6 mm long and the mature seeds are glossy purplish-black (a useful identification feature).
This is a very useful and easy plant to grow in the right spot. It does an excellent job of forming a continuous dense groundcover that can out compete weeds and cover a lot of bare ground. It is very attractive when it flowers heavily. If desired, it will also spill over from garden beds and invade cracks in pathways and paved areas. It flowers for most of the year in favourable conditions.
It grows in a wide range of soils if moisture is present. It prefers a protected position in semi-shade to full sun. It will grow well in wet conditions but will start to die back once hot and dry summer conditions ensue. A bit of rain will resurrect the colony again. It may need some supplementary watering in really hot an dry times.
It may not be overly frost tolerant (growing naturally close to the coast) but is drought tolerant in a favourable growing environment. It is likely more saline tolerant compared to V. hederacea. Useful for beachside areas and coast gardens.
Very useful as a ground cover or a non-traffic lawn substitute in shady, moist areas.
Very nice in hanging baskets.
Can become invasive in favourable conditions but it is easy to control if necessary.
The best method is by division of established plants. Provided the divided clumps have a few roots, they will quickly establish in other parts of the garden or in pots if keep watered.
Viola banksii has been split out of Viola hederacea in 2003.
Until recently, the commonly grown native violet was referred to as Viola hederacea. However, research has shown that plants bought at nurseries and grown in gardens are more often that of Viola banksii.
Viola is a large world-wide genus of about 450 species. Australia has 16 species including some weeds. NSW currently has 15 recognised species (12 native and 3 exotic with some informal native species).
V. banksii was originally collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander at Botany Bay in 1770.
Grows in fire-prone environments and appears to have the ability to regenerate from stolons.
Viola – from the Greek for violet (violeta, βιολέτα) – referring to the purple colour of the flowers.
banksii – in honour of Joseph Banks (1743-1820), English naturalist, botanist and famous expeditioner who accompanied Captain (then Lt.) Cook on his first circumnavigation (1768-1771).
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
Australian Plants Society (Australia) – Viola banksii profile page
NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Viola banksii profile page
Gardening with Angus – Viola banksii profile page