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( ~ My first attempt at ascii art.)
Contrary to what you might think, given its slang usage and delicate appearance, the pansy is a tough little plant. Highly prized as a prolific bloomer and relatively hardy when it comes to withstanding pests and diseases, the fragrant (and edible!) pansy ( Viola x wittrockiana ) has been called “a flower for all seasons.”1
Pansy plants are usually less than 10” high, with oval or heart-shaped leaves. The blooms consist of five single rounded petals, one to four inches in width. Flowers can be a single clear color, a single color with black lines (known as penciling) radiating from the center, or bi- (or tri-) colored, with a darker color in the center and on the lower petals. This last configuration is known as a face. Pansies come in black, mahogany, bronze, red, rose, pink, orange, apricot, yellow, white, lavender, blue, or purple. Almost any time of the year, somewhere in North America, pansies can be found in bloom. In temperate climates, they are grown as a perennial. In the Midwest, pansies will grow in the spring, summer, and fall; in the North they are grown in the summertime, and since they don’t like the heat of southern summers, they are grown in
fall, winter, and spring in Dixie.
"Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell:
it fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound,
And maidens call it Love-in-idleness."
~ A Midsummer Night's Dream 2
Modern pansies have only been around for about two hundred years; the flowers that Shakespeare referred to were the Viola tricolor, which Americans call the Johnny-jump-up, or wild pansy. In parts of England this flower has been called heart's-ease, Herba Trinitatis, or love-in-idleness. Both pansies and wild pansies are descendants of violas, which were cultivated by the ancient Greeks for use in herbal medicine. The name pansy comes from the French, pensees, thought or remembrance. The Viola tricolor has been used as a remedy for epilepsy, skin diseases, bronchitis, asthma, and diseases of the heart (giving an alternate meaning to heartsease, although V. tricolor has also been used in love potions...)
My mom used to call me Annsie pansy when I was little.