Viola silicestris

Sandstone Violet

Family: Violaceae

A herbaceous perennial, spreading by stolons and forming colonies.

It has a mostly coastal distribution in NSW growing mainly in to the northern and southern state borders.

There are many records around Sydney, Wollongong and the Southern Highlands as well as Morton National Park (west of Milton and Ulladulla and towards Batemans Bay). There are some disjunct records south-east of Bombala near the Victorian border. It can be found in the Blue Mountains and around Newcastle and then in disjunct occurrences up the coast to north of Brisbane in Queensland.

It is often found in dry and wet sclerophyll forests as well as heathland, usually on sandy or volcanic soils.

Viola spp. have simple and alternate leaves, usually with stipules present. In this species, leaves are basal and form rosettes, to 1.5 cm long and to 4 cm wide, usually truncate or squared-off at the base, with margins slightly toothed; with the leaf tapering into a long petiole to 11 cm long, mid 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, on elevated stalks to 15 cm long, with flowers about 1.5 cm across, pale mauve to blue in colour with the anterior petal having darker veins and a small green blotch; occurring in spring.

The fruit is a capsule. In this species, they are pale green, sometimes with purple blotches with seeds up to 2 mm long, glossy purple-black when mature.

In the garden

This plant can be grown in a garden situation. It is not commonly cultivated but grows well on a well-drained sandy or enriched soil with some moisture and shade. Can create a solid groundcover in the right conditions.

Useful for covering up mulched areas. Violas can also be grown in pots.

Check with local native nurseries for availability.


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 was only recognised in 2006. It was previously thought to be either Viola hederacea or V. sieberiana. It is described by Kevin Thiele & Suzanne Prober in the journal Telopea.

Grows in fire-prone environments and appears to have the ability to regenerate from stolons as well as any seedbank.

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.

silicestris – Latin – silice (silica) and –estris (inhabiting), in reference to the characteristic occurrence on siliceous (silica-based) sandy soils.

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

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

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

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