Viola tricolor

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For the Theodor Storm novella, see Viola Tricolor (novella).
"Heartsease" redirects here. For the settlements, see Heartsease, Powys and Heartsease Estate, Norwich.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Violaceae
Subfamily: Violoideae
Genus: Viola
Species: V. tricolor
Binomial name
Viola tricolor

Viola tricolor, Also known as Johnny Jump up (though this name is also applied to similar species such as the yellow pansy), heartsease, heart's ease, heart's delight, tickle-my-fancy, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, come-and-cuddle-me, three faces in a hood, or love-in-idleness, is a common European wild flower, growing as an annual or short-lived perennial. It has been introduced into North America, where it has spread. It is the progenitor of the cultivated pansy, and is therefore sometimes called wild pansy; before the cultivated pansies were developed, "pansy" was an alternative name for the wild form.

Heartsease flowers.
Flowers of Viola tricolor

V. tricolor is a small plant of creeping and ramping[1] habit, reaching at most 15 cm in height, with flowers about 1.5 cm in diameter. It grows in short grassland on farms and wasteland, chiefly on acid or neutral soils. It is usually found in partial shade. It flowers from April to September (in the northern hemisphere). The flowers can be purple, blue, yellow or white. They are hermaphrodite and self-fertile, pollinated by bees.

As its name implies,[citation needed] heartsease has a long history of use in herbalism. It has been recommended, among other uses, for epilepsy, asthma, skin diseases and eczema.[2] V. tricolor has a history in folk medicine of helping respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma, and cold symptoms.[3] It has expectorant properties, and so has been used in the treatment of chest complaints such as bronchitis and whooping cough.[medical citation needed] It is also a diuretic,[4] leading to its use in treating rheumatism and cystitis.[citation needed]

The flowers have also been used to make yellow, green and blue-green dyes, while the leaves can be used to make a chemical indicator.[citation needed]

Long before cultivated pansies were released into the trade in 1839, V. tricolor was associated with thought in the "language of flowers", often by its alternative name of pansy (from the French "pensée" - thought):[citation needed] hence Ophelia's often quoted line in Shakespeare's Hamlet, "There's pansies, that's for thoughts". What Shakespeare had in mind was V. tricolor, not a modern garden pansy.

Shakespeare makes a more direct reference, probably to V. tricolor[5] in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Oberon sends Puck to gather "a little western flower" that maidens call "love-in-idleness". Oberon's account is that he diverted an arrow from Cupid's bow aimed at "a fair vestal, throned by the west" (supposedly Queen Elizabeth I) to fall upon the plant "before milk-white, now purple with love's wound". The "imperial vot'ress" passes on "fancy-free", destined never to fall in love. The juice of the heartsease now, claims Oberon, "on sleeping eyelids laid, Will make or man or woman madly dote Upon the next live creature that it sees." Equipped with such powers, Oberon and Puck control the fates of various characters in the play to provide Shakespeare's essential dramatic and comic structure for the play.


Viola tricolor in a Norwegian flowerbed

V. tricolor is one of many viola plant species containing cyclotides. These small peptides have proven to be useful in drug development due to their size and structure giving rise to high stability. Many cyclotides, found in Viola tricolor are cytotoxic.[6] This feature means that it could be used to treat cancers.[7][8]

Extracts from the plant are anti-microbial.[9][10]

V. tricolor extract had anti-inflammatory effect in acute inflammation induced in male Wistar rats.[11]

The plant, especially the flowers, contain antioxidants and are edible.[12]

Plants contain aglycones: apigenin, chrysoeriol, isorhamnetin, kaempferol, luteolin, quercetin.[13] and rutin [14]

The fresh plant Viola declinata and V. tricolor contain approximately

  • saponins (4.40%),
  • mucilages (10.26%),
  • total carotenoids(8.45 mg/100g vegetal product, expressed in β-carotene).[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ It can hoist itself as much as a meter into a dense tangle of other growth.
  2. ^ Maude Grieve,
  3. ^ Rimkiene S. Ragazinskiene O. Savickiene N. ,"The cumulation of Wild pansy (Viola tricolor L.) accessions: the possibility of species preservation and usage in medicine." Medicina (Kaunas) 39(4):411-6, 2003.
  4. ^ Toiu A. Muntean E. Oniga I. Vostinaru O. Tamas M. " Pharmacognostic research on Viola tricolor L. (Violaceae)." Revista Medico-Chirurgicala a Societatii de Medici Si Naturalisti Din Iasi. 113(1):264-7, 2009 Jan-Mar.
  5. ^ The other candidate is "Love-in-a-Mist" or Nigella, a common garden plant of Shakespeare's day, varying in colour from white through pinks to an almost true blue (suggested, e.g. by Dr Henry Bull, "Love in Idleness (Nigella)" in Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club 1883-85 (1890), pp 61ff.
  6. ^ Tang J., Wang C.K., Pan X., Yan H., Zeng G., Xu W., He W., Daly N.L., Craik D.J., Tan N."Isolation and characterization of cytotoxic cyclotides from Viola tricolor" Peptides 2010 31:8 (1434-1440)
  7. ^ Erika Svangård, Ulf Göransson, Zozan Hocaoglu, Joachim Gullbo, Rolf Larsson,, Per Claeson and Lars Bohlin, 2004. "Cytotoxic Cyclotides from Viola tricolor" Journal of Natural Products 67 (2), 144-147
  8. ^ Tang J., Wang C.K., Pan X., Yan H., Zeng G., Xu W., He W., Daly N.L., Craik D.J., Tan N. ,"Isolation and characterization of cytotoxic cyclotides from Viola tricolor", Peptides 2010 31:8 (1434-1440)
  9. ^ Witkowska-Banaszczak E., Bylka W., Matławska I., Goślińska O., Muszyński Z. ,"Antimicrobial activity of Viola tricolor herb". Fitoterapia 2005 76:5 (458-461)
  10. ^ Witkowska-Banaszczak E. Bylka W. Matlawska I. Goslinska O. Muszynski Z."Antimicrobial activity of Viola tricolor herb". Fitoterapia. 76(5):458-61, 2005 Jul.
  11. ^ Toiu A. Parvu AE. Oniga I. Tamas M."Evaluation of anti-inflammatory activity of alcoholic extract from Viola tricolor.", Revista Medico-Chirurgicala a Societatii de Medici Si Naturalisti Din Iasi. 111(2):525-9, 2007 Apr-Jun.
  12. ^ Vukics V. Kery A. Guttman A."Analysis of polar antioxidants in Heartsease (Viola tricolor L.) and Garden pansy (Viola x wittrockiana Gams.)". Journal of Chromatographic Science. 46(9):823-7, 2008 Oct.
  13. ^ Vukics V. Ringer T. Kery A. Bonn GK. Guttman.,"Analysis of heartsease (Viola tricolor L.) flavonoid glycosides by micro-liquid chromatography coupled to multistage mass spectrometry." A. Journal of Chromatography. A. 1206(1):11-20, 2008 Oct 3.
  14. ^ Vukics V. Toth BH. Ringer T. Ludanyi K. Kery A. Bonn GK. Guttman A.,"Quantitative and qualitative investigation of the main flavonoids in heartsease (Viola tricolor L.)". Journal of Chromatographic Science. 46(2):97-101, 2008 Feb.
  15. ^ Toiu A., Muntean E., Oniga I., Tǎmaş M. "Pharmacognostic research on Viola declinata Waldst. et Kit. (Violaceae)" Farmacia 2009 57:2 (219-222)

External links[edit]