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ntroduced Photo: Gary Thingnam
Common name: Violet • Urdu: गुले बनफ़्शा Gul-e banafsha
Botanical name: Viola spp.    Family: Violaceae (Violet family)

Violets are small perennial plants, some are annual plants, and a few are small shrubs. A number of cultivars are grown for their ornamental flowers in borders and rock gardens. Violets typically have heart-shaped leaves, though a number have palmate shaped leaves, plus other shapes. The flowers of the vast majority of the species have bilateral symmetry. The flowers are formed from five petals, four are upswept or fan-shaped petals with two per side, and there is one broad, lobed lower petal pointing downward. The shape of the petals and placement defines many species, for example, some violets have a "spur" on the end of each petal while most have a spur on the lower petal. Flower colours vary in the genus, ranging from violet, as their common name suggests, through various shades of blue, yellow, white, and cream, whilst some types are bicolored, often blue and yellow. Many cultivars and hybrid species have been bred in a greater spectrum of colours. Flowering is often profuse, and may last for much of the spring and summer. Some violets which have blotches on the petals that make them resemble human faces, are given the name Pansy. When newly opened, viola flowers may be used to decorate salads or in stuffings for poultry or fish. Soufflés, cream and similar desserts can be flavoured with essence of viola flowers. The young leaves are edible raw or cooked as a somewhat bland leaf vegetable. Flowers, leaves and roots are also used for medical purposes, being rich in vitamins A and C. They also contain a type of antioxidant called an anthocyanin.

Identification credit: Tabish Photographed in Delhi.
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