Flowers of heart's ease or heart's delight violet by Zeynel Cebeci Photo by Zeynel Cebeci

Fast Facts

  • Proclaimed the state flower in 1908.
  • Botanical name: Violet viola
  • The violet was selected after a 1907 vote taken among Illinois schoolchildren for their favorite flower. They also elected the Native Oak as state tree at the same time.
  • Violet Trivia: When smelling a violet, one whiff is all you get. Its scent contains ionone, a chemical that temporarily desensitizes the nose.
  • Send flowers to Chicago

Growing in abundance throughout Illinois, violets are a natural choice as the Illinois state flower. There are so many varieties of the flower in the state of Illinois, no one knows which the schoolchildren had in mind when they selected it, but it hardly seems likely that it mattered then, and surely it matters even less now. Every type of violet is a lovely and well-loved flower, whether growing in Aurora, or Chicago, or anywhere in the state’s great farmlands.

The most recognizable and widespread of the native violets in Illinois is the dooryard violet, as it is easy to grow anywhere, in full sunlight or in shade. Most of the 400 to 500 species of wildflower violets found around the world prefer moist, shaded areas, often growing beneath hedges where they are protected.

The dooryard violet is one of the more interesting violets as it does something quite unusual in the world of plants: it produces two different types of flowers at two different times of year.

Alpine Violet by Derek RamseyPhoto by Derek Ramsey

In spring these violets produce the large recognizable flowers you always see in photos and wildflower guidebooks. The petals of the Illinois state flower are actually edible and are often covered with sugar and used as cake decorations. After these have bloomed, the violet produces small, closed flowers that look more like mere buds, closer to the ground on shorter stems. These flowers produce most of the violet plant’s seeds.

You can find violets that are purple (like the violet color the flower is named for) and in many other shades such as light blue, yellow, white, cream and in two-tones varieties as well.

Depending on the variety, violets can be a perennial, an annual, a shrub or a small plant, but always with the recognizable shape of the main flower that we know and love.

Adding to the violet’s popularity is its long flowering season. Its flowers can be seen throughout Illinois almost all spring and summer long. It’s also hugely popular with many varieties of insects that thrive on the nutritious flowers and leaves of the Illinois state flower.

In many parts of the country, some flowers in the violet family are called pansies. But in Illinois, of course, a violet is a violet.

Illinois state flower sources: