ORRIN MORRIS: Indian Americans, early physicians used birdfoot violet to treat lung diseases

My inward spiritual journey continues with the constant reminder that I am a sinner. Though I may deceive myself that I am not as bad as some others, I am still a sinner who falls short of the glory of God. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."(Romans 3:23). My righteousness is not measured by how I measure up against others, but how I measure up to the expectations of our loving God.

The congregation founded on the principles Jesus taught is a band of "sinners saved by grace." In that context, one can grow in that grace.

Generally, I have been part of a small church (attendance less than 200) where most members know each other, pray daily for those with special needs and visit to comfort and support one another. Such a congregation meets a personal need that some of you might call the "warm and fuzzies." I like that kind of a sense of belonging. I guess that is why I like today's wildflower, a "warm and fuzzy" wildflower.BIRDFOOT VIOLET

Viola pedataThe birdfoot violet's natural habitat is rocky soils and it seems to thrive in well-drained and acidic sandy areas. Thus, one would not expect to find this species in well-tended gardens and fertile soils. Nor could one expect to be successful in transplanting a clump of roots into such an environment.

The birdfoot violet gets its name from the shape of the leaves, deeply lobed with finger-like segments, as illustrated. The uniqueness of this violet, compared to the common blue violet, is more than color and leaves. The roots of the birdfoot violet are vertical compared to other violets whose roots are horizontal. This fact is critical should you try to move a cluster of plants to a new location.

Another difference is the shorter stems that hold the blooms. Stems holding the birdfoot violet blooms are rarely more than 1 inch long while the common violet stems extend up to 3 inches.

The blossoms of this variety are larger than those of the common violet and measure 1 inches to 1 inches across. Common blue violets rarely measure 1 inch in diameter. The two top petals of the viola pedata are deep purple and the three lower petals lavender. The lower center petal, larger than the other four, becomes pale lavender or white toward the center and has an orange "tongue," or anther, at the center. A slightly more common variety that is called by the same name is viola lineariloba. It has light purple petals.

This violet will bloom through June if the weather stays cool.

Indian Americans used the leaves of the birdfoot violet to create an expectorant for certain lung diseases. In the 19th century, European doctors incorporated this herb into their list of remedies for the same purposes, according to "The Herb Book" by John Lust.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center St. in Olde Town Conyers.