Violet of Toulouse, the emblem of the Pink City

The Violet of Toulouse is the official emblem of the capital of the Occitanie region.

Toulouse is also known as La Ville Rose – The Pink City, because of the pink terracotta bricks of its buildings.

Violet of Toulouse
Violet of Toulouse

The history of the Violet of Toulouse is relatively recent, as it goes back to 1850.

Indeed, a soldier brought back the first plant from the city of Parma in Italy, where he fought during one the 19th century military campaigns.

To his surprise, the flower intended for his beloved had an immediate success.

The people of Toulouse fell in love with the violet for its parma colour double flowers with a white heart and its irresistible perfume.

The culture of violets spread to the Toulouse region, which by the 20th century had some 400 producers!

The Violet of Toulouse was one of the most popular plants until WWII and was exported throughout Europe.

Violets were indeed often given to friends and family at Christmas or on Valentine’s Day, as they bloom for 7 to 8 months, from October to March.

WWII triggered the decline of the fragrant flowers, and the freezing winter of 1956 nearly disseminated them.

Violets can indeed withstand temperatures of -18C, providing that there is no moisture, as sadly there was in the winter of 1956.

It also proved challenging to save the few remaining plants, because the Violet of Toulouse doesn’t reproduce from seeds but from cuttings.

As a result, the culture remained quite limited until 1985, when the agricultural engineer Adrien Roucolle recreated the cultivar and therefore avoided the extinction of the variety.

The Violet of Toulouse has since been cultivated under greenhouses in order to protect it from the harsh and humid winter weather.

In 1993, perfume manufacturers and committed producers created Terre de Violettes, an association that aims to restore this flower to its past glory.

The association also created La Fête de la Violette, a festival managed by the city of Toulouse since 2003.

Violets in mythology

The violet has been known since ancient times and even has its place in Greek mythology.

Zeus, the king of all gods, created the violet for Io, one of the priestesses of his wife Hera, whom he had fallen in love with.

To deter Hera’s doubts, Zeus changed Io into a heifer.

But poor Io cried constantly because she had to eat ordinary grass to feed herself!

Her tears touched Zeus, who said “Wherever she puts her lips, her breath will turn grass into violets.”

And at once, the grass Io grazed on turned into a carpet of fragrant violets.

Symbolism of the violet

In the language of flowers, the violet embodies modesty and simplicity, because of its small corolla that hardly peaks above its leaves.

The violet also symbolizes love; a bouquet with simple flowers serves to express love; a bouquet of violets with double petals symbolizes shared love or friendship.

As for our Violet of Toulouse, it serves to say “Let me love you”.

Department of Haute-Garonne
Coordinates: Lat 43.604652 – Long 1.444209

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