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 d'Udine, for example, features large, bluish-lavender flowers and a strong perfume, whereas the Neapolitan displays much paler flowers, although very rarely - it seems to be far more selective about its living conditions.
There is, also, a single variety of white parma: the Comte De Brazza. Hardy, and with a sweetly delicate perfume, the Comte produces pure white blooms, which in some climates, produce pale blue tips when they are exposed to plenty of good, strong spring sunlight.
The origins of the parma violet are a source of some mystique. First imported into Naples a certain Count Brazza took the plant to Udine in the latter part of the 19th century. There are no records of his work, though it is widely believed that he made deliberate crossings to produce at least two varieties of parma. One of these is still available, whereas the other one is romantically believed to languish in some forgotten back garden somewhere, just waiting to be rediscovered.
Parma violets are widely believed to be sterile, and there is much store laid by their reproduction through cuttings. Armand Millet, French violet grower, proved this belief to be a myth, however, and with the right conditions any sturdy and content violet could well produce a seed pod.
The once much sought after Creme Yvette was a liqueur made of this particular strain of violets.