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a family of dicotyledonous plants including herbs, shrubs, subshrubs, and—less commonly—small trees. The leaves are simple, usually entire, and stipulate. The mostly bisexual flowers are irregular or regular; they are solitary or in inflorescences. There are five sepals, petals, and stamens. The gynoecium consists of three or, less commonly, two, four, or five carpels. The ovary is superior, with ovules on the parietal placentas. The fruit is a three-valved capsule or, rarely, a berry or nut.
There are about 850 species, making up 16 genera. The plants are distributed throughout the world but occur mainly in the tropics and subtropics. Species are found in temperate regions as far north as the arctic. One genus, Viola, occurs in the USSR. Some species have economic significance as ornamental, essential-oil, or medicinal plants. The South American Leonia glycycarpa has edible fruits.