Species Profile

Bird's-foot Violet

Scientific Name: Viola pedata
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: Ontario
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2002
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B1ab(ii,iii,iv,v)+2ab(ii,iii,iv,v)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: A species found in rare oak savannah habitats with a highly restricted geographical range of only 5 occurrences. Populations have experienced significant declines.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Threatened in April 1990. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in May 2002.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2005-01-12

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

Go to advanced search

Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Bird's-foot Violet

Bird's-foot Violet Photo 1
Bird's-foot Violet Photo 2



The Bird's-foot Violet is a stemless perennial herb; the leaves and stalks arise from an underground stem called a rhizome. The leaves have no hairs and are primarily three-parted, with the divisions being further subdivided into three to five linear segments. A single lilac-purple flower is borne at the end of each tall flower stalk. The flower has five petals, which may all be the same colour, or the upper two may be darker than the lower three. The small seeds, which measure 2.0 to 2.2 mm, are copper coloured.


Distribution and Population

The species occurs in eastern North America from Ontario and New York south to Georgia and west to Minnesota and Texas. In Canada, the Bird’s-foot Violet is found only in southern Ontario. The populations in Canada occur as isolated pockets separated from the main population found in the United States. According to data reported in 2001, there are five populations in Canada; three occur on private land and two on public land. In total, there are fewer than 7000 Bird's-foot Violets, a decline of between 25 and 50% from 1991 to 2001.



The Bird’s-foot Violet is typically found in Black Oak savannahs within deciduous forests, where the soils are sandy, acidic, and well drained. Occasional disturbance, resulting from natural events (such as fire or flood), or through selective cutting, is necessary to limit excessive shading from encroaching trees and shrubs. In southern Ontario, the Bird’s-foot Violet is at the northernmost edge of its range.



In Canada, the Bird’s-foot Violet flowers from mid-May until mid-June and again from the end of September to mid-October. Insects, such as butterflies and bumblebees, are the main pollinators. Unlike many other violets, the Bird’s-foot Violet can only reproduce by seeds resulting from cross-pollination. The seeds are projected up to half a metre from the plant. They are often picked up by ants and brought to nests, which reduces predation on seeds and increases the chances of reproduction. This species cannot be successfully transplanted.



Destruction of habitat caused by the expansion of agriculture has limited populations of the Bird’s-foot Violet. The violet occurs in one of the most developed parts of the country where the oak savannah habitat required by the species is rare. Competition from woody plants is also a problem for this species. In the past, the savannahs inhabited by Bird’s-foot Violets were often the scenes of fires, but as human control of fires increases, other species of plants are taking over the habitat of this violet. Such human activities as mowing and herbicide use are also detrimental to populations of the Bird’s-foot Violet.



Federal Protection

The Bird's-foot Violet is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Bird’s-foot Violet (Viola pedata) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Turkey Point and Vittoria populations are monitored annually by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Post-prescribed burn monitoring has been conducted in Turkey Point Provincial Park and St. Williams Conservation Reserve in 2005 to study the species response to oak savanna restoration efforts. A master’s thesis study was also conducted in 2005 to explore habitat quality and population size relationships among multiple sites. Summary of Recovery Activities A comprehensive database of Bird’s foot violet sites along with other tallgrass and savanna sites has been developed to provide information to aid the maintenance and expansion of the sites. Tallgrass Ontario has been working to raise awareness, coordinate recovery efforts, and help provide local groups with the tools they need to do the job. It is important for individuals and local groups to participate in recovery programs to save and recover some of the species. Fire management has been used in Turkey Point Provincial Park since 1994 and St. Williams Conservation Reserve since 2005 to maintain and restore valuable oak savanna habitat for Bird’s Foot Violet populations. URLs Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources:http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/MNR/csb/news/2005/dec2bg_05.html Tallgrass Ontario:http://www.tallgrassontario.org/TS_SAR_List.htm Ontario Botanists in Training Program:http://www.rbg.ca/cbcn/en/cbcn4kids/kid_ont.htm


PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

7 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Bird's-foot Violet (Viola pedata) in Canada (2002-05-01)

    Bird's-foot Violet is a stemless herb with leaves and flowering stalks arising directly from an erect, non-stoloniferous rhizome. The leaves are primarily three-parted with the divisions being further subdivided into three to five linear segments. The flowers are born singly on the ends of long stalks that generally overtop the leaves. The single flowers are flatter than most other violets and are lilac-purple in colour. The five petals may be all the same colour or the upper two may be darker than the lower three.

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Bird's-foot Violet (2004-04-21)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Recovery Strategies


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004-04-21)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 139, number 2, 2005) (2005-01-12)

    Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004-03-03)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update December 2, 2021
Date modified: