The arrowhead violets are flowering beautifully this week, all ready for Toowoomba's Carnival of Flowers.
The species grows naturally in forests and woodlands, preferring its soil to be a little damp. Its water requirements are not heavy, though. This year-old plant has had no watering since it was planted a year ago. It would be appreciating the mulch which keeps the soil moisture fairly constant.
For a brief period in the 1990s, this perennial native violet species was adopted as the floral symbol of Toowoomba, ousting the better-known “Toowoomba violet” (which is an introduced plant, a large-flowered variant of the European sweet violet Viola odorata).
While my head would prefer to see native plants rather than exotic ones adopted as symbols of cities, my heart is with the introduced plants in this case. Bunches of them were sold by mothers of soldiers lost in the first world war. The money so raised was used to build our iconic “Mothers’ Memorial”. It would be a pity to lose this bit of our heritage.
The spear-leafed violet is native to Toowoomba and along the range. Its deep purple flowers resemble those of the introduced violet, but are slightly redder in hue.
I can understand the wish to use it as our city’s symbol. It was once very common here, and hosted the Australian Fritillary butterfly, a species which is now listed as critically endangered, but may actually be extinct, for lack of the plants on which to rear its babies.
The plant flowers generously in spring. At other times of the year it has the botanically interesting habit producing seeds from small self-pollinating flowers which never open. This has given it an undeserved reputation for “not flowering well” - as the buds seem to come to nothing. It actually flowers beautifully, but only does it in spring.