Violet Family – Violaceae
The Violet family of over 800 species includes the genus Viola with 500 species. Garden pansies are hybrids of several species, including Viola tricolor. The family is named after the genus Viola which is the ancient Latin name for the species Sweet Violet Viola odorata used by the Greeks to make perfumes and the Romans to make wine. It has a very distinctive scent which is still used today in perfumes.
Basic Flower Parts – 5 Sepals, 5 petals, 5 Stamens, 1 Style, 3 united Carpels. Superior Ovary. Nectar secreted into spur. Fruit is a capsule
Common Dog Violet V. riviniana flowers are bilaterally symmetrical and are supported on a curved stalk which has 2 small bracts attached. It has 5 unequal size petals – a front petal with a long spur behind it, 2 petals either side and 2 petals above. The spur contains nectar which attracts early-flying bees. It flowers from March to May. It is found in woods, hedge-banks and gardens.
Wild Pansy Viola tricolor is a native wild flower found growing throughout Britain on field margins and short grasslands. It is also common throughout Europe as far as the Caucasus. It flowers from May to September and is pollinated by long-tongued bees. It is also known as Heartsease and referred to by Shakespeare as a pansy. The flower has 5 petals, 2 blue upper and 3 white/yellow lower and has nectaries in a spur. It is pollinated by long-tongued bees.
The Garden Pansy Viola x wittrockiana is a hybrid of several viola species, including the wild pansy. It was created in the 1830s in Britain and named after a Swedish botanist. It has 2 upper petals, 2 side petals and one large lower petal.
Pansies are treated as hardy annuals although they are biennials and will produce seed in their second year. Generally they are grown from seed and planted out in the second year, then discarded.