Prepared by Holly Bickerton

Bird’s-foot Violet (Viola pedata) is a distinctive and showy perennial violet. It ranges across much of the eastern United States and has been reported from 14 populations distributed across a broad area in southwestern Ontario. It is considered globally secure (G5) but critically imperilled (N1) in Canada. Bird’s-foot Violet is designated as endangered under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007.

Of the documented 14 populations, there are currently only five populations considered extant in Canada, occupying a much-reduced range in Brant and Norfolk counties. Only one of these five populations is found on public land managed for conservation. Although recent information is lacking, this large population is believed to be stable or increasing due to ongoing habitat management and protection. The remaining four populations are found entirely on private land, and face many threats. At three of these four sites, fewer than 10 plants remained when they were last observed.

Bird’s-foot Violet favours dry, open, sandy sites throughout its range. At its five remaining sites in Ontario, it grows mainly in oak savanna (or ingrown savanna) on well- drained, sandy soils. The species has a strong preference for sites with an open canopy, bare soil and a thin organic layer or moss cover. Originally, such open habitat would have been maintained by fire. In the settled southern Ontario landscape, the long-term maintenance of oak savanna requires regular management, such as brush cutting or prescribed burning.

The predominant threat to this species in Ontario is fire suppression which results in shaded and unsuitable conditions. This threatens plants mainly at the sites on private lands. Other threats include habitat loss through conversion to homes and gardens, trampling and recreational pressure, erosion, and competition from invasive species. The small size and limited spatial extent of most populations further compounds the risks that these threats pose to Bird’s-foot Violet.

The recovery goal for Bird’s-foot Violet is to maintain or increase the current abundance, area of occupancy and range extent within Ontario, by managing habitat and restoring or re-introducing the species to suitable habitat within its known range. Protection and recovery objectives are to:

  • protect extant populations by working collaboratively with landowners
  • manage extant populations to maintain suitable habitat conditions
  • monitor populations and habitats regularly, particularly in response to management actions
  • if necessary to meet the recovery goal, re-establish and/or introduce populations in suitable habitat within the species’ former range

It is recommended that the area prescribed as habitat in a regulation for Bird’s-foot Violet include the extent of the Ecological Land Classification (ELC) Ecosite polygon(s) (Lee et al. 1998) within which the species is found. If plants are close to the edge of a polygon, a minimum distance of 50 metres from the outer limit of the population is recommended for regulation. The areas surrounding cultivated Bird’s-foot Violet plants and those originating from outside Canada should be excluded from regulation. Habitat mapping of all populations and sub-populations of this species would inform the regulation process.