The violet family has around 400 species; among the more common ones is the Violet of Parma whose flowers are used for extracting fragrance.
Today there are many varieties of the Violet of Parma. The flower, usually double, is composed of 5 petals, and its colour varies from white to intense violet such as the MARIE LOUISE, easily recognizable thanks to the small red dots contained on the inside of the petals and the particularly intense fragrance. The leaves are big and shiny and the height of the plant doesn't usually exceed 10 cm; it is easily found in woods and in damp zones. The cultivation of the violet under protected conditions contributes to an increase in both the dimension of the flower, the intensity of the perfume and the colour.
The origin of this plant is not clear: it was probably brought to Europe from North Africa or from the far east, and requires a moderate climate because it is very sensitive to the cold.
It has been cultivated for more than 2.000 years. For centuries the violet has been used in perfumery. The Arabs were the first ones to distil its essential oil. They believed that the perfume of the violet gave relief and strengthened the heart. In the past this flower wasn’t greatly used in fragrance production in France, England or Italy. However, when Queen Victoria ordered the cultivation of around 3000 vases in the greenhouses of Windsor Castle, it not only became fashionable to use violet fragrance but also to have a small bunch of fresh violets in the buttonhole.
The perfume constituents are found both in the leaves and in the petals. The essential oil drawn from the leaves is a green colour, with a definite aroma, while that of the petals is of yellow-green colour with a rich, sweet floral aroma.
In the Language of flowers it symbolizes humility and modesty.