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This is an incredibly diverse genus, whose common names include Pansy, Viola and Violet, depending on the species.

There are around 500 species, found in a wide range of habitats throughout most areas of the world, from sea level to high altitudes. There are even some to be found in artic regions. Locations vary from bogs and woodland, to screes, sand dunes and semi-desert areas. 

Conditions required vary widely with the type and species. Different varieties will tolerate a wide range of positions, from woodland, through to open, sunny sites. Some will survive in a moisture-retentive soil, while others prefer better drainage. Too fertile a soil will encourage very leafy growth and few flowers.