Parma violets belong to the more exotic branch of the violet family. First appearing in Italy, in the 16th century, most types of parma violets have lavender flowers of varying sizes.
The Violet family comprises over 200 species, widely distributed in the temperate and tropical regions of the world, those natives of Europe, Northern Asia and North America being wholly herbaceous, whilst others, native of tropical America and South America, where they are abundant, are trees and shrubs. The genus Viola contains about 100 species, of which five are natives of Great Britain.
The origins of the parma violet are unknown, though they have been shown to be derived from two different Viola alba strains. Parma violets are widely believed to be sterile, and there is much store laid by their reproduction through cuttings. Armand Millet, a French violet grower, proved this belief to be a myth, however, and with the right conditions any sturdy violet could well produce a seed pod. The Violet propagates itself, also, in another way by throwing out scions, or runners, from the main plant each summer after flowering, and these in turn send out roots and become new plants, a process that renders it independent of seed.
The delicate purple flowers of the parma violet plant also give their name to a delicate, violet-scented sweet Parma Violets, manufactured by Swizzels Matlow.