The Yellow Wood Violet grows as a low ground-hugging colony. The leaves form wonderful carpets of green with bright yellow flowers twinkling like stars growing out of the carpet. A beautiful sight in the warm months of summer. Thin, knobby green rhizomes grow just under the surface of the soil. True roots extend from the lower surface of the rhizomes to grip the soil.
Leaves grow upwards from the end of the rootstock on 10 cm long petioles. Like those of many other violets, the leaves are kidney-shaped and toothed. Several flowers bloom above the leaves on a leafy stem. Five bright yellow petals make an irregular ring with 5 small green sepals. The lowest petal points forward whereas the other four extend outward or backward. Delicate brown lines mark the throat of the lowest petal and lead to a spur. Within, five short brown stamens hug a single greenish pistil. Quite a beautiful flower.
The Yellow Wood violet prefers a habitat that consists of moist woods and especially likes the edges of streams. The species grows abundantly in moist sub-alpine environments. At mid to low elevations, the violet is particularly common where deciduous trees form a major part of the forest canopy. In BC you can find this violet almost anywhere in the southern portion of the province, including all of Vancouver Island.
The range extends northward along the coast to Alaska and southward into the Sierra Nevada of California and as far east as Montana.