Pansy

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For other uses of the name, see Pansy (disambiguation).
Pansy
Pansy-00.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Violaceae
Genus: Viola
Species: V. tricolor
Subspecies: V. t. subsp. hortensis
Trinomial name
Viola tricolor subsp. hortensis

The pansy is a group of large-flowered hybrid plants cultivated as garden flowers. [1] Pansies are derived from viola species Viola tricolor hybridized with other viola species, these hybrids are referred to as Viola × wittrockiana. The pansy flower is two to three inches in diameter and has two slightly overlapping upper petals, two side petals, and a single bottom petal with a slight beard emanating from the flower's center. The plant may grow to nine inches in height, and prefers sun to varying degrees and well-draining soils.

Names and terminology[edit]

Pansies growing at the edge of the pavement
Pansy displaying the two upper overlapping petals, the two side petals, and the single bottom petal
Pansies showing typical facial markings
Pansies in a garden displaying foliage, markings, and buds
Yellow pansies

The common names "pansy" and "violet" are often used interchangeably. When a distinction is made, plants considered to be pansies have four petals pointing upwards, and only one pointing down. Violets have three petals pointing up and two pointing down.[2] Thus Viola cornuta is commonly referred to as a pansy.

The name pansy is derived from the French word pensée "thought", and was imported into Late Middle English as a name of viola in the mid 15th century, as the flower was regarded as a symbol of remembrance. The name "love in idleness" was meant to imply the image of a lover who has little or no other employment than to think of his beloved one.[3] The name "heart’s-ease" came from the woman St. Euphrasia, whose name in Greek signifies cheerfulness of mind. The woman, who refused marriage and took the veil, was considered a pattern of humility, hence the name "humble violet".[3]

Modern horticulturalists tend to use the term "pansy" for those multi-coloured large-flowered hybrids that are grown for bedding purposes every year, while "viola" is usually reserved for smaller, more delicate annuals and perennials.

In Scandinavia,[4] Scotland, and German-speaking countries, the pansy (or its wild parent Viola tricolor) is or was known as the "stepmother"; the name was accompanied by an aitiological tale about a selfish stepmother, told to children while the teller plucked off corresponding parts of the blossom to fit the plot.[5] In Italy the pansy is known as flammola (little flame),[6] and in Hungary it is known as árvácska (small orphan). In Israel, the pansy is known as "Amnon and Tamar", after the biblical characters (II Samuel 13). In The United States, pansies have been colloquially referred to as "football flowers"[citation needed] because of the Milwaukee "Football" or soccer decorations that use white chrysanthemums and black pansies to create a soccer ball (no flower gets quite as black as a pansy).[citation needed] In some countries of Spanish language, the pansy is known as "Pensamiento" or "Trinitaria".[citation needed]

Historical background[edit]

Viola tricolor flower close up
A bi color Pansy

In the early years of the 19th century, Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennet (1785–1861), daughter of the Lord of Tankerville, collected and cultivated every sort of Viola tricolor (commonly, heartsease) she could procure in her father's garden at Walton-upon-Thames, Surrey. Under the supervision of her gardener, William Richardson, a large variety of plants was produced via cross-breeding. In 1812, she introduced her pansies to the horticultural world, and, in 1813, Mr. Lee, a well-known florist and nurseryman, further cultivated the flower. Other nurserymen followed Lee's example, and the pansy became a favorite among the public.

About the same time that Lady Bennett was busy cultivating heartsease, James, Lord Gambier was doing the same in his garden at Iver under the advice and guidance of his gardener Thomson. A yellow viola, Viola lutea, and a wide-petalled pale yellow species of Russian origin, Viola altaica were among the crosses that laid the foundation for the new hybrids classed as Viola × wittrockiana, named for the Swedish botanist Veit Brecher Wittrock (1839-1914). A round flower of overlapping petals was the aim of early trials; in the late 1830s a chance sport that no longer had narrow nectar guides of dark color on the petals but a broad dark blotch on the petals (which came to be called the "face"), was found. It was developed in Gambier's garden and released to the public in 1839 with the name "Medora".

By 1833, there were 400 named pansies available to gardeners who once considered its progenitor, heartsease, a weed. Specific guidelines were formulated for show pansies but amateur gardeners preferred the less demanding fancy pansies. About this time, James Grieve developed the viola and Dr. Charles Stuart developed the violetta, both smaller, more compact plants than the pansy.[7][8][9][10]

Cultivation[edit]

Modern horticulturists have developed a wide range of pansy flower colors and bicolors including yellow, gold, orange, purple, violet, red, white, and even near-black (very dark purple). Pansies typically display large showy face markings.

Pansies produced for the bedding market

Plants grow well in sunny or partially sunny positions in well-draining soils. Pansies are perennial, but normally grown as biennials or annuals because of their leggy growth. The first year plant produces greenery, and bears flowers and seeds in its second year of growth. Afterwards, the plant dies like an annual. Because of selective human breeding, most garden pansies bloom the first year, some in as little as nine weeks after sowing.

After flowering, a seed capsule matures, eventually opening as seen here.

Pansies are purchased as six-packs or "flats" (USA) of young plants from garden centers and planted directly into the garden soil. Plants will grow up to nine inches (23 cm) in height with flowers measuring two to three inches (about 6 cm) in diameter, though smaller and larger flowering cultivars are available.

Pansies in a British Garden Centre

Pansies are winter hardy in zones 4-8. They can survive light freezes and short periods of snow cover, but, in areas with prolonged snow cover, a covering of a dry winter mulch is recommended. In warmer climates, zones 9-11, pansies can bloom over the winter, and are often planted in the fall. In warmer zones, pansies may re-seed themselves and return the next year. They are not very heat-tolerant; warm temperatures inhibit blooming and hot muggy air causes rot and death. In colder zones, pansies may not survive without snow cover or protection (mulch) from extreme cold or periods of freezing and thawing. They perform best in zones with moderate temperatures, and equal amounts of mild rainfall and sunshine.

Pansies, for best growth, are watered thoroughly about once a week, depending on climate and rainfall. The plant should never be over-watered. To maximize blooming, plant foods are used about every other week, depending on the type of food used. Regular deadheading can extend the blooming period.

Pests and diseases[edit]

Aphid and her young

Aphids[edit]

Aphids, which can spread the cucumber mosaic virus, sometimes feed on pansies. Infestations are treated with a spray of diluted soft soap (2 ounces per gallon) or insecticides.

Leaf spot[edit]

Leaf spot (Ramularia deflectens) is a fungal infection. Symptoms include dark spots on leaf margins followed by a white web covering the leaves. It is associated with cool damp springs.

Mildew[edit]

Mildew (Oidium) is a fungal infection. Symptoms include violet-gray powder on fringes and underside of leaves. It is caused by stagnant air and can be limited but not necessarily eliminated by spraying (especially leaf undersides).

A Pansy exhibiting the flower's morphology: two large petals overlapping at the top, two side petals, a lower petal with slight indentation, and beards at the center

Slugs and snails[edit]

Slugs and snails feed on the foliage. Sometimes sharp, gritty sand or a top-dressing of chipped bark is used by gardeners to limit damage.

Stem rot[edit]

Stem rot, also known as pansy sickness, is a soil-borne fungus and a possible hazard with unsterilized animal manure. The plant may collapse without warning in the middle of the season. The foliage will flag and lose color. Flowers will fade and shrivel prematurely. Stem will snap at the soil line if tugged slightly. The plant is probably a total loss unless tufted. The treatment of stem rot includes the use of fungicides such as Cheshunt or Benomyl, which are used prior to planting. Infected plants are destroyed (burned) to prevent the spread of the pathogen to other plants.

Cucumber mosaic virus[edit]

The cucumber mosaic virus is transmitted by aphids. Pansies with the virus have fine yellow veining on young leaves, stunted growth and anomalous flowers. The virus can lay dormant, affect the entire plant and be passed to next generations and to other species. Prevention is key: purchases should consist entirely of healthy plants, and pH-balanced soil should be used which is neither too damp nor too dry. The soil should have balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphate and potash. Other diseases which may weaken the plant should be eliminated.

Pansies in the arts and culture[edit]

Symbolism[edit]

Bookbinding embroidered by Elizabeth I in 1544 for her stepmother Katherine Parr with heartsease depicted in each corner

The pansy's connection to pious humility is mentioned by Harte, who writes: "From brute beasts humility I learned;/And in the pansy’s life God’s providence discerned".[6] Gifford evokes both Christian and classical undertones, writing how "Pansies – still,/More blest than me, thus shall ye live/Your little day, - and when ye die,/Sweet flowers! The grateful muse/Shall give a verse".[6] Smart proposes "Were it not for thee, oh sun,/Those pansies, that reclining from the bank/View through the immaculate, pellucid stream,/Their portraiture in the inverted Heaven,/Might as well change their triple boast, the white,/The purple, and the gold".[6]

On account of its popularity in both society and its recurring appearances in Romantic poetry, a variety of new nicknames for the flower began to circulate. Dorothea Lynde Dix proclaims that “Perhaps no flower (not excepting even the queenly rose) claims to be so universal a favorite, as the viola tricolor; none currently has been honored with so rich a variety of names, at once expressive of grace, delicacy and tenderness.”[6] Many of these names play on the whimsical nature of love, including “Three Faces under a Hood,” “Flame Flower,” “Jump Up and Kiss Me,” “Flower of Jove,” and “Pink of my John.”[11]

In Hamlet, Ophelia distributes flowers with the remark, "There's pansies, that's for thoughts" (IV.5). Other poets referencing the pansy include Ben Jonson, Bernard Barton, Michael Drayton, Edmund Spenser, William Wakefield, and William Wordsworth.

"Pensée" from Fleurs Animées by J. J. Grandville (1803-1847)

Nathaniel Hawthorne published his last literary effort, an unfinished piece, entitled Pansie, a Fragment, sometimes called Little Pansie, a fragment in 1864. D. H. Lawrence's Pansies: Poems by D. H. Lawrence was published in 1929, and Margaret Mitchell originally chose Pansy as the name of her Gone with the Wind heroine, but settled on Scarlett just before the book went into print.

Visual arts[edit]

In the visual arts, Pierre-Joseph Redouté painted Bouquet of Pansies in 1827, and, in 1874, Henri Fantin-Latour painted Still Life with Pansies. In 1887, van Gogh painted Mand met viooltjes, and, in 1926, Georgia O'Keeffe created a painting of a black pansy called simply, Pansy and followed it with White Pansy in 1927. J. J. Grandville created a fantasy flower called Pensée in his Fleurs Animées. The 1951 Disney animated film Alice in Wonderland featured a chorus of singing pansies in the Garden of Live Flowers scene.

As an emblem[edit]

Mand met viooltjes (Vincent van Gogh, 1887)
Pansies in one of Warsaw's garden. Agfacolor 1937

Because its name means "thought", the pansy was chosen as a symbol of Freethought[12] and has been used in the literature of the American Secular Union. Humanists use it too, as the pansy's current appearance was developed from the heartsease by two centuries of intentional crossbreeding of wild plant hybrids. The specific colors of the flower – purple, yellow, and white – are meant to symbolize memories, loving thoughts and souvenirs, respectively.[5] The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) uses the pansy symbol extensively in its lapel pins and literature. The flower has long been associated with human manner, as one man cleverly stated: “Nature sports as much with the colours of this little flower as she does with the features of the human countenance.”[11] The pansy’s particular connection to human thought and emotion is mirrored in one Dr. Evan’s poems, where he captures the whimsical, yet deep emotional roots of the pansy’s symbolism: “Pied Pansy, - once a vestal fair/In Cerestrain, - now droops - /Stained by the bolt of love her purple breast,/And ‘freaked with jet’ her party-colored vest”.[3] The shape of the petals, in particular its resemblance to the human face, it is not surprising that the pansy would come to be associated with deep contemplation. One man wrote in The Argosy: “With its own symbolic meaning of thought, the pansy is also somewhat endued with a soft shadow, not necessarily of grief, but solemn and quiet, indeed grave, as thought should be.”[13]

The Pansy is a symbol of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority,the Delta Delta Delta sorority and the Sigma Lambda Upsilon (ΣΛΥ) or Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc. The Pansy is the flower of Osaka, Japan, and was the name of the Epiphone Elitist Les Paul Custom guitar with an Alpine White finish played by guitarist Frank Iero (whose nickname, coincidentally, is also Pansy) of the band My Chemical Romance. Pansy was broken during a show.

A purple pansy is the symbol of the Royal Purple of Canada.[14] The purple pansy was chosen as the national emblem of the order for two reasons: first, because the pansy grows all across Canada and, second, because it means 'pleasant thoughts' which fits in very well with the Principles of the Royal Purple which are Justice, Charity, Love and Fidelity.

Traditions and uses[edit]

Greeting Card, c. 1900

In William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the juice of the heartsease is a love potion and "on sleeping eyelids laid, will make a man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees." (II.1).

In the language of flowers, a honeyflower and a pansy left by a lover for his beloved means "I am thinking of our forbidden love". In 1858, the writer James Shirley Hibberd wrote that the French custom of giving a bride a bouquet of pansies (thoughts) and marigolds (cares) symbolized the woes of domestic life rather than marital bliss.[15]

A German fable tells of how the pansy lost its perfume. Originally pansies would have been very fragrant, growing wild in fields and forests.[5] It was said that people would trample the grass completely in eagerness to pick pansies. Unfortunately, the people’s cows were starving due to the ruined fields, so the pansy prayed to give up her perfume. Her prayer was answered, and without her perfumed scent, the fields grew tall, and the cows grew fat on the fresh green grass.[5]

American pioneers thought that “a handful of violets taken into the farmhouse in the spring ensured prosperity, and to neglect this ceremony brought harm to baby chicks and ducklings.”[5] On account of its place in American hearts, a game called “Violet War” also arose. In this game, two players would intertwine the hooks where the pansy blossoms meet the stems, then attempt to pull the two flowers apart like wishbones. Whoever pulled off the most of their opponent’s violet heads was proclaimed the winner.[5] Young American settlers also made pansy dolls by lining up the pansy flower “faces”, pasting on leaf skirts and twig arms to complete the figures.[5]

The pansy is used in phytotherapy.[16]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?312231 USDA Website
  2. ^ http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Viola-cornuta.htm
  3. ^ a b c McGlashan, James. The Dublin University Magazine: A Literary and Political Journal. Vol. 42. July to December 1853: 286.
  4. ^ Botanical info on Viola tricolor in Sweden (Swedish)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Silverthorne, Elizabeth. Legends and Lore of Texas Wildflowers. Texas A&M University Press, 2003.
  6. ^ a b c d e Dix, Dorothea Lynde. The garland of flora. S. G. Goodrich and co. and Carter and Hendee, 1829.
  7. ^ Johnson, Sophia Orne. Every woman her own flower gardener: A manual of flower gardening for ladies. 7th ed. Pg 38-39. Ladies Floral Cabinet Co., 1885.
  8. ^ Farrar, Elizabeth. 2000. On the Subject of Pansies, Violas, and Violettas. The American Violet Society.
  9. ^ Pansy. Windy Acres, Inc.
  10. ^ The Country gentleman's magazine. Volume 7. 1871. Pg. 111-112
  11. ^ a b Phillips, Henry. Flora Historica: or the Three Seasons of The British Parterre. Vol. 1. London: E. Lloyd and Son, 1824.
  12. ^ Gaylor, Annie Laurie (June–July 1997). "Rediscovering A Forgotten Symbol Of Freethought - A Pansy For Your Thoughts". Freethought Today. Archived from the original on 2012-07-08. 
  13. ^ Wood, Mrs. Henry, ed. The Argosy. Vol. 8. July to December 1869: 72.
  14. ^ http://www.royalpurpleofcanada.org/uploads/2/7/9/9/2799294/resource_manual_part_1.pdf
  15. ^ Hibberd, James Shirley. The fuchsia, pansy and phlox: their history, properties, cultivation, propaganda, and general management in all seasons. Groombridge and Sons, 1858.
  16. ^ Lewis, W. H., Elvin-Lewis, M. P. F. (2003). Medical Botany. Plants Affecting Human Health (p.555). Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

External links[edit]

Remember Flower By Faces, But Not Humans. "The Milwaukee Sentinel." September 15, 1929. P. 12.