State Symbol: State Flower Violet (Viola sororia)
The law of 1908 designated that the “blue violet” be the state flower. There are actually eight species of blue-flowered violets in the state. The most common of them is the dooryard violet, Viola sororia. The dooryard violet is certainly one of the most recognizable native wildflowers in the state. It is also one of the most easily grown; it grows in anything from full sunlight to deep shade.
Many types of violets, including the dooryard violet, produce two kinds of flowers. The large showy flowers people associate with the plants are common in the spring. These petals are edible. You may have seen them covered in sugar as cake decorations. After the showy flowers have bloomed, the plant produces small, closed flowers on short stems neat the ground. These flowers look like small buds. It is these small, closed flowers that produce most of the seeds.
In 1907, Mrs. James C. Fessler of Rochelle suggested to state officials that Illinois schoolchildren vote for a state tree and flower. The vote for flower had these results: Violet 16,583 votes; Wild Rose 12,628; Golden Rod 4,315. Senator Andrew J. Jackson of Rockford introduced a bill making it official in 1908.
H.A. Gleason and A. Cronquist, 1991, Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, second edition, New York, NY: The New York Botanical Garden, 910 pp.
http://americanvioletsociety.org/ The American Violet Society Web site.