Perennial herb 3 - 20 cm tall Stem: absent aboveground, leaves and flowers arising independently and directly from rootstock of thick (much greater than 3 mm diameter), prostrate or ascending rhizomes, but lacking runners (stolons). Leaves: basal, weakly ascending (sometimes prostrate), stalked, densely short-hairy, shallowly toothed, much longer than wide, elliptic or elongate egg-shaped in outline with pointed tip. The size and shape of leaf blades differs with the seasons: in spring the leaf blades are as short as 1 cm, while in summer the blades can be up to 5.5 cm long and are often coarsely toothed in the basal quarter. Leaf stalks appressed-hairy, shorter than or equal to blade length, and separate from the green, less than 1.5 cm long stipules. Flowers: ascending to erectly-stalked, light to dark blue-violet, 1 - 2 cm long, bilaterally symmetric with two upper petals, two lateral petals, and lower petal with base modified into a rounded nectar spur. In the summer, producing very fertile flowers that do not open (cleistogamous). Sepals: five, green, bristly-hairy, lance-shaped with long-tapering pointed tips, and ear-like appendages (auricles) at the base. Petals: five, separate, all differently shaped, but all forward-facing. The two lateral petals and lowest petal have a thick beard of hairs near the base, and the lowest petal is also prolonged at its base into a short, rounded spur or sac. Stamens: five, separate, but very tightly arranged so anthers touch as they surround ovary. The filaments are very short (anthers not exposed), and the lower two stamens have spur-like nectaries on their backs that extend into the spur or sac of the lower petal. Pistil: with a single-chambered, superior ovary; and a single style that expands into a short, scoop-shaped stigma. Fruit: a many-seeded, green, hairless, ellipsoid capsule on erect stalks. The capsule opens lengthwise from its top to disperse the seeds which have a large amount of oily endosperm, and often an appendage (aril).
Similar species: Viola sagittata var. ovata is probably most similar to the typical variety V. sagittata var. sagittata, but that variety has mostly hairless leaves that are held erect, the leaf stalks are always longer than the leaf blades (often two to four times longer), and the leaf blades are more long-triangular to arrowhead-shaped with linear segments or lobes near the base. Some may confuse young plants of V. x palmata (when the leaves are unlobed), but the hybrid differs since its leaves are only up to one and a half times longer than wide, the sepals are shorter and more oblong with blunt tips, the spur petal rarely has a beard of hairs, and the capsules are flecked with purple and attached to prostrate or arched stalks. It may be possible to confuse V. sagittata var. ovata with other members of the Boreali-Americana group with unlobed leaves such as V. sororia or V. cucullata, but those species have leaves that are normally only as wide as long (or wider), and the sepals are not as long-tapering and sharp at the tips. Plus, the capsules of V. sororia are flecked with purple, and the leaves and spur petals of V. cucullata are mostly hairless. Viola affinis may have longer than wide leaves, but its capsules are flecked with purple. A species that exists more north of the Chicago Region, V. novae-angliae, is very similar to V. sagittata var. ovata, but its sepals are more egg-shaped with rounded tips, and the leaf hairs are very long (over 1 mm).
Flowering: April to June
Habitat and ecology: Restricted mostly to dry habitats such as prairies with shallow soils, and savannas.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: The lack of any basal lobes on the leaves of this variety make it fairly distinguishable from V. sagittata var. sagittata, however in some prairie habitats the two varieties may overlap and can be hard to discern. This variety is referable to the entity described in Swink and Wilhelm (1994) as V. fimbriatula.
Etymology: Viola is the classical name for the genus. Sagittata means "arrow-shaped". Ovata means "ovate in shape", that is egg-shaped, as are the leaves of this variety.
Author: The Field Museum
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
This variety is a form with more ovate and shorter leaf blades and is more or less densely pubescent. It insensibly grades into the typical form.