Viola caleyana

Swamp violet, Caley’s Violet

Family: Violaceae

A herbaceous perennial with stems to 0.3 metres long and often trailing, not really forming dense colonies.

It has a patchy occurrence in NSW, within the coastal and tablelands subdivisions, found from just south of the Queensland border, (east of Stanthorpe), occurring in disjunct patches to the south, as far as north-eastern Victoria as well as Albury. It is also found in northern Victoria.

It is typically found near swamps as well as wet sclerophyll forest and woodland including rainforest margins.

Viola spp. have simple and alternate leaves, usually with stipules present. In this species, leaves are clustered to scattered, to 5 cm long, by 4 cm wide, generally heart-shaped to broad arrow-shaped (cordate), mid to light green with crenate margins.

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 produced solitarily in leaf axils, on stalks to 8 cm long, above the foliage, with flowers about 2 cm across, white to pale violet (sometimes 4 petals white and the anterior with purple markings); occurring in Spring to Summer.

The fruit is a capsule, to 9 mm long, that releases seed from valves. The small seeds turn from cream to dark maroon or pale brown when ripe.

In the garden

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.

It is not often cultivated and plants may be difficult to source. Check with local native nurseries for availability.

A useful plant to grow around ponds and any damp areas where a groundcover is needed. Also nice in a pot.


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 appears to have the ability to regenerate from seed and possibly from rootstocks.

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.

caleyana – named after George Caley (1770-1829), a botanist sent to Australia to collect specimens by Joseph Banks.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild in most areas. However, it is threatened with extinction in Tasmania.

NSW Flora online (PlantNET) – Viola caleyana profile page

Plants of South Eastern New South Wales – Viola caleyana profile page

Tasmania – Threatened Species Link – Viola caleyana profile page

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