The Latin specific epithet hederacea means “like ivy”, referring to the leaves which resemble the leaves of Hedera species (which are not closely related).

The flowers are usually rather pale and washed-out looking, the anterior petal (the one at the bottom of the flower when looking face on, is widest towards its apex, and the mature seeds are brown. Well-developed leaves of Viola hederacea are also distinctive – semicircular in outline, about as broad as long, and usually rather dark green above and paler beneath.