Species At Risk

Bird’s-foot Violet

(Viola pedata)


Bird’s-foot Violet
Bird’s-foot Violet occurrences map


Bird’s-foot Violet is a stemless violet with leaves and flowers arising directly from the rhizome (an underground spreading stem). It is named after its thin, finely divided leaves, the lateral leaflets of which resemble the splayed toes of a bird. Flowers of this violet have five lilac to purple coloured petals with conspicuous orange stamen tips visible at their center. Some flowers are coloured similarly to those of the commonly cultivated pansy (V. tricolor) in that the two upper petals are much darker purple than the rest. This violet blooms in the spring and sometimes again in the autumn. It produces many tiny, copper-coloured seeds.

Action we are taking:


In Canada, Bird’s-foot Violet is found only in southern Ontario at a handful of sites. In 2001, the population was estimated to be fewer than 7,000 plants at only five locations.


In Ontario, Bird’s-foot Violet is found only in black oak savanna, a very rare vegetation type having widely spaced open-grown trees with an understorey of tallgrass prairie herbs. Natural disturbances caused by drought or fire are important for removing trees and shrubs that would otherwise shade out the tiny Bird’s-foot Violet.


The main threat to Bird’s-foot Violet is lack of suitable habitat. The violet is found in one of the most developed parts of the country and the oak savanna habitat it requires is very rare. Existing populations require habitat management including prescribed burns to replace the natural wild fire regimes (patterns of fire that occur over long periods of time) to prevent trees and shrubs from taking over Bird’s-foot Violet habitat in southern Ontario.


Bird’s-foot Violet is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.

What You Can Do to the Bird’s-foot Violet

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Bird’s-foot Violet. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species at risk recovery. If you find Bird’s-foot Violet on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Bird’s-foot Violet and many other species at risk depend on healthy grassland prairies, a habitat that is very rare in Ontario. Learn more about this habitat, the species that depend on it, and what you can do to help at www.tallgrassontario.org.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • Pollinators, such as bees, are in steep decline across the globe and they play a key role in the survival of many of Ontario’s rare plants. For information on how you can help scientists monitor pollinator populations in Ontario visit: www.seeds.ca/proj/poll.
  • Invasive species seriously threaten many of Ontario’s species at risk. To learn what you can do to help reduce the threat of invasive species, visit: ontario.ca/invasivespecies ; www.invadingspecies.com ; www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca ; and, www.invasivespecies.gc.ca .

Did you know?

Bird’s-foot Violet has a creative way to disperse seeds. The tiny seeds are contained inside a smooth green seedpod that bursts open and flings the seeds up to five metres away.

Did you know?

Ants help to further scatter the seeds by carrying them back to their nests, and eating the outer casing but not the seed itself.

Did you know?

The Bird’s-foot Violet is an important food source for several species of butterflies.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.