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Wild Pansy

Viola tricolor

  • Name also: Heartsease, Heart’s-ease, Johnny Jumpup, Johnny-jump-up
  • Family: Violet Family – Violaceae
  • Growing form: Annual or biennial herb.
  • Height: 8–25 cm (3.2–10 in.). Stem ascending–erect, usually branched, glabrous.
  • Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, usually multicoloured (purple, yellow and white; each colour may be weak or not present at all), 1–2.5 cm (0.4–1 in.) wide; petals 5, longer than sepals, lowest with spur. Sepals 5. Stamens 5. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Flowers solitary in axils, nodding.
  • Leaves: Alternate, quite short-stalked, stipulate. Rosette not present. Blade ovate–lanceolate, with rounded teeth (crenate), sometimes juicy. Stipules leafy, deeply lobed, tip lobe large, lanceolate, entire margin–toothed.
  • Fruit: 3-valved capsule.
  • Habitat: Lichen-dominated or meadow-like rocky outcrops, dry and sloping meadows, banks, fields, gardens, wastelands, sand fields, seaside beaches.
  • Flowering time: May–September.

Wild pansy grows on shores and islands along the Gulf of Finland as far north as Vaasa and inland as far as northern Häme, northern Savo and North Karelia, and to some extent further north as a weed. Most violets have petals that are roughly the same colour, but wild pansy’s corolla is usually 3-coloured, which has given the plant its scientific name tricolor. The colour of the flower varies greatly: the most common colour scheme is with dark purple upper petals, light violet side petals and a yellowish white lower petal; almost just as often the flowers are completely dark purple. The colour of the corolla can change as flowering progresses. Yellow and white-flowered forms are much rarer, and now and again the purple shades are completely lacking, in which case it resembles the field pansy (V. arvensis). Wild pansy’s petals are however always longer than its sepals, while field pansy’s are shorter or equally long at most.

Despite its modest size, wild pansy has captivated people for centuries. The church has seen its three shades as a symbol for the Holy Trinity, lovers have turned to the plant to ease their worries, and many notable historical people have chosen it as their favourite flower. The structure and colour of the flower – along with a fertile imagination – are also behind the violets’ and pansies’ common Finnish name (orvokki) which is derived from the Finnish word for ‘orphan’ – a mother with her child has been seen in the petals, with the family sitting on a chair in the sepals.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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