Viola hederacea

Native Violet / Ivy-leaved Violet

Family: Violaceae

A herbaceous, and evergreen groundcover, which grows to 10 cm tall, but may spread to form a colony several metres wide, spreading by stolons.

Historically, it is a very widespread species. However, please note that reclassification of species may change the recognised distribution. It has a mostly coastal and tablelands distribution in NSW, growing mainly on the coast but spreads into the central western slopes. It is found from both the northern and southern border, through these areas. It extends right through southern and eastern Victoria, into South Australia, to Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and north-of. It grows right throughout Tasmania. It extends up the Queensland coast and tablelands, to west of Cape Tribulation. Some of these occurence-ranges will possibly be considered different species in time.

It is typically found in more sheltered and moist bushland including wet and dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, rainforest margins and shrublands, on a range of soils including sandy, loam and volcanic.

Viola spp. have simple and alternate leaves, usually with stipules present. In this species, leaves are round to kidney-shaped (reniform), to 3 cm wide, with variable 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 one, arranged almost in a rotate shape. In this species, flowers are solitary, to about 2 x 1.5 cm, produced on stalks, to 9 cm long, from the leaf axils and standing above the foliage, white and purple in colour.

The fruits are capsules. In this species, they are to 6 mm long and and the mature seeds are brown.

In the garden

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 is frost tolerant and drought tolerant in a favourable growing environment. It is, however, very sensitive to salinity.

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.


From seed or vegetative division. Creeping stems that wander outside garden beds can be dug up and transplanted to other areas very easily.

Other information

This species has historically been a species complex and has been split into new species in the last 20 years, including V. banksii and V. eminens.

It is thought that true Viola hederacea is infrequently grown in gardens. Most ornamental cultivars labelled as Viola hederacea are actually Viola banksii, which differs in the more richly coloured flowers with an almost circular anterior petal and almost circular leaves with a deep sinus.

There is a white form that has been sold as ‘White Glory’.

Grows in fire-prone environments, and appears to have the ability to regenerate from stolons.

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.

hederacea – resembling the Ivy genus, Hedera, which presumably refers to the leaf appearance.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Viola hederacea profile page          https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Viola~hederacea

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

Gardening with Angus – Viola hederacea profile page        https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/viola-hederacea-native-violet/

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