Perennial herb 10 - 45 cm tall Leaves: several, both basal and alternate, stalked, hairless or almost hairless, 4 - 10 cm long, and with up to eighteen round teeth per side. There are one to three somewhat kidney-shaped basal leaves, and near the top of the stem one to four somewhat broad heart-shaped (normally a bit wider than long) leaves with indented base and fairly abruptly tapered pointed tip. Stipules green, non-toothed, somewhat elliptic to narrowly egg-shaped with short, somewhat pointed tip. Flowers: in upper leaf axils, slender-stalked, yellow, bilaterally symmetric with two upper petals, two lateral petals, and lower petal with base modified into a rounded nectar spur. In the summer, producing very fertile flowers that do not open (cleistogamous). Sepals: five, green, lance-shaped with ear-like appendages (auricles) at the base. Petals: five, separate, all differently shaped, clear yellow with brownish purple veins near base. The two lateral petals have a beard of hairs near the base, and the lowest petal is prolonged at its base into a short, rounded spur or sac. Stamens: five, separate, but very tightly arranged so anthers touch as they surround ovary. The filaments are very short, and the lower two stamens have spur-like nectaries on their backs that extend into the spur or sac of the lower petal. Pistil: with a single-chambered, superior ovary; and a single hairy-tipped style that enlarges below the head-shaped stigma. Fruit: a many-seeded, 1 - 1.2 cm long, elongate, usually hairless capsule that opens lengthwise from top. The seeds are pale brown and have a large amount of oily endosperm, and often an appendage (aril). Stems: two to several, erect, hairless or nearly so, producing both leaves and flowers, and arising from a short, stout, very scaly, yellow rhizome.
Similar species: Viola pubescens var. scabriuscula is very similar to the other variety in this species, V. pubescens var. pubescens, but that variety has only one or two stems, densely hairy leaves, no or only one basal leaf, more round-tipped stem leaves with straight or wedge-shaped bases, more than eighteen teeth per leaf side, and more widely egg-shaped upper stipules which narrow rather abruptly into a slender point at the tip.
Flowering: April to June
Habitat and ecology: Common in woodlands and mesophytic savannas or beech forests, but typically less often in dry-mesic or swamp and flood plain forests.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: This species has also been known under the scientific names Viola eriocarpa, V. eriocarpa var. leiocarpa, V. pensylvanica var. leiocarpa, and V. pubescens var. eriocarpa.
Etymology: Viola is the classical name for the genus. Pubescens means "downy, short-haired". Scabriuscula is a diminutive of scabra, referring to the slightly rough leaves.