Viola betonicifolia

Arrowhead Violet, Showy Violet, Mountain Violet

Family: Violaceae

A small perennial herb with basal leaves, which usually grows as one single plant (not forming colonies) but often found in clusters.

It has a large distribution, found throughout the coast and tablelands subdivisions and some of the western slopes subdivisions in NSW. It is found over much of Victoria with the exception of the north-west. It occurs around Mt Gambier and Adelaide in South Australia. It is found over much of northern Tasmania as well as near Hobart. It also grows through Queensland, in disjunct patches as far as Cairns. (Note: some of these occurrences may be due to naturalisations). This species also occurs in Papua New Guinea and reportedly further north into Asia.

It is typically found in wet and dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, on sandy to enriched soils.

Viola spp. have simple and alternate leaves, usually with stipules present. In this species, leaves are very recognisable, with an arrow to triangular shape (ovate to deltoid) to 6 cm long and 3 cm wide, on a very thin petiole to 8 cm long, dark green in colour with prominent venation.

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 one, arranged almost in a rotate shape. In this species, flowers are solitary, produced on stalks to 20 cm long, to 3 cm across, violet to violet-blue to white in colour with darker petal-veins.

The fruit is capsule. In this species, it is brown, to 13 mm long with a pointed tip and contains very small blackish seeds.

In the garden

This is an easy plant to grow, and adaptable to different soil types, as long as, it gets sufficient moisture and at least half shade or more in a garden situation. There is a form that runs rampant in nursery environments at times.

Some APS gardeners report that it can establish very well and then become a weed in some cases – so take care where you plant it.

A nice plant to use as a groundcover – possibly in between shrubs and around trees.

Also a nice plant to grow in a pot.

Plant in some shade, with reliable moisture. It may need supplementary watering in dry times.

Can self-seed if it likes the garden conditions.


Easy from seed or 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.

Other information

This species grows in fire-prone environments and can likely regenerate from seed and possibly, from the rootstock.

English botanist Sir James Edward Smith was the first to describe Viola betonicifolia, giving it the common name “betony-leaved violet” in 1817.

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).

Viola – from the Greek for violet (violeta, βιολέτα) – referring to the purple colour of the flowers.

betonicifolia – from Betonica, a genus of plants now included in Stachys (a member of the Lamiaceae family); and –folia from the Latin for “leaves”, alluding to the leaves being similar to those of Betonica.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

Wikipedia – Viola betonicifolia profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viola_betonicifolia

Australian National Herbarium – Viola betonicifolia profile page

NSW Flora online (PlantNET) – Viola betonicifolia profile page:

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.