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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Violaceae
Genus: Viola
Species: V. tricolor
Binomial name
Viola tricolor

Heartsease redirects here, for the place, see Heartsease, Powys or Heartsease, Norwich

Heartsease (Viola tricolor) 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 widely, and is known as the Johnny Jump Up (though this name is also applied to similar species such as the Yellow Pansy). 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.

Viola tricolor LC0041.jpg

Heartsease 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. The flowers can be purple, blue, yellow or white. They are hermaphrodite and self-fertile, pollinated by bees.

As its name implies, Heartsease has a long history of use in herbalism. It has been recommended, among other uses, as a treatment for epilepsy, asthma, skin diseases and eczema. It has expectorant properties, and so has been used in the treatment of chest complaints such as bronchitis and whooping cough. It is also a diuretic, leading to its use in treating rheumatism and cystitis.

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.

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

Shakespeare makes a more direct reference, probably to Heartsease[2] 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.

Heartsease has a large number of alternative colloquial names, up to two hundred.

Heartsease is also the title of a book in The Changes trilogy, written by Peter Dickinson.

Use of plants in medicine

Viola tricolor is one of many 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. One such cyclotide, vitri A, found in Viola tricolor is said to contain cytotoxic characteristics. This feature means that it could be used to treat cancers [3].


  1. ^ It can hoist itself as much as a meter into a dense tangle of other growth.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Latin viola, violet + tri, three + color, colour

Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:


Viola tricolor

  1. a taxonomic species, within genus Viola - heartsease or the wild pansy
Wikispecies has information on:



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Viola tricolor


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Malpighiales
Familia: Violaceae
Genus: Viola
Species: Viola tricolor


Viola tricolor L., 1753

Vernacular names

Deutsch: Wildes Stiefmütterchen
Türkçe: Hercai menekşe
Українська: Фіалка триколірна

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