Latin name: Viola riviniana
Size: Flower stems up to 10cm tall
Where: Inchcailloch; woodlands and hillsides
When: Spring to early summer for flowers
There are actually more than a dozen species of violets in the UK – not to mention the hybrids – but nine out of ten of those we see are likely to be the common dog violet. We think of them as woodland flowers but these shy harbingers of spring crop up in the most unlikely places, including high in the mountains and on craggy outcrops.
Sadly the dog violets lack the beautiful perfume of the much less common sweet violet (Viola odorata), which the Victorians loved so much. But if you spot their warm, deep purple or mauve flowers on a cold, grey spring day you can forgive them that.
There are also a few animals that are especially pleased when they find these delicate flowers. Common dog violets are the food plant for the caterpillars of a number of fritillary butterflies, including the small pearl-bordered and pearl-bordered fritillaries. Without the violets these beautiful and declining butterflies would disappear.