For many, the lawn is a sacred place where nary a clover or dandelion dare venture. For others, lawns are becoming more diverse for the sake of bees, or for the sake of giving up on the battle against weeds. Dandelions and clover may be the first to pop to mind when considering lawn weeds, but this was the first time I had seen violets in turf.
From afar, the untrained eye may assume this purple hue in the lawn is creeping charlie, or dead nettle, both common weeds that carry a purple flower.
But upon closer inspection, these were violets! While I treated this as a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, one of our turf professors shared that wild violets are actually one of the most notorious lawn weeds and are difficult to manage.
Violets (viola sp.) spread by seed and by rhizome. They come in shades of purple, white, and yellow. Some are bi-color.
Violets attract pollinators and are the primary host plant for the caterpillars of a group of butterflies known as fritillaries. Violets are also the sole food source for the mining bee Andrena violae a specialist bee that only visits violets.
Violets establish well in shady, moist areas where turf is not vigorous and cannot out-compete violets and other weeds. These areas often pose a challenge for turf establishment and so violets may be a welcome option for ground coverage. However, once established they can spread forth from that tough site into your desirable lawn areas.
Violets can also be a sign of thinning lawns overall, and can establish where lawns are mowed too short , competing with that lawns' chances of growing thick and vigorous once more.
So what to do!?
Of course, the choice is yours! Should they stay? OR should they go? OR, as one reader pointed out, WHY NOT BOTH! Those found at Chadwick seem to have become part of the display and were a welcome sight to frolic through this spring. This is a great example of how some more natural areas can be a welcome component of a lawn's aesthetics, bringing color and beneficial insects, and probably covering some tough sites.
Should you desire to manage your violets in lawns, there are options. If a patch is caught early, it may be best to dig and hand pull them for control. Consider the conditions of the site as well. Is there the option to increase light penetration or create a thicker stand of turf to compete with weeds? Chemical control for violets include the use of post-emergent broadleaf herbicides containing the active ingredient Triclopyr. Two or more applications may be required to make an impact on established violets. Fall application when plants are directing energy to the roots is considered most effective. Even with a solid product, control of violets is difficult. They're tough little things! When using pesticides, be sure to read all labels and follow instructions. The label is the law for use.