field pansy (Viola bicolor)
American field pansy
Viola kitaibeliana auct. non Schult.
Viola kitaibeliana Schult. var. rafinesquei (Greene) Fernald
Viola rafinesquei Greene
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for field pansy
is Viola bicolor Pursh. In the past, there has been some controversy regard-
ing whether or not the field pansy is native to North America as it shares
many characteristics with annual Viola spp. from Eurasia. More recently,
there is a growing consensus among botanists that the field pansy is
sufficiently distinct to be considered a native species of North America.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This wildflower is a winter or spring annual about 6" tall, sometimes
branching near the base of the plant; it is more or less erect. The small basal
leaves have orbicular blades with long slender petioles; these are followed
by alternate leaves along the stems. The stems are light green to purplish
green and hairless.
Leaves: The alternate leaves are obovate, oblanceolate, or linear-oblanceo-
late, becoming more narrow as they ascend the stems. They are up to 2"
long, light to medium green, hairless, and smooth to slightly crenate along
their margins. Leafy stipules up to 1" long occur along the stems near the
bases of the leaves. These stipules have deep narrow lobes that are smooth
or ciliate along their margins; they are light to medium green like the leaves.
Flowers: Occasionally, individual flowers are produced from axils of the
upper leaves on long naked stalks. Each of these stalks is light green to dark
purple and hairless, curving downward at the apex where the flower occurs.
Each flower is about ½" across, consisting of 5 petals and 5 sepals. The
petals are pale to medium blue-violet with dark purple lines, becoming
white near the throat of the flower. However, the lowermost petal has a
patch of yellow near its base. Also, the two lateral petals are bearded with
white hairs near the throat of the flower. The sepals are smaller in size than
the petals; they are light green to purplish green, lanceolate, and hairless.
Fruit/Seeds: Fertilized flowers produce seed capsules. The small seeds
are light brown and globoid; they are ejected mechanically from their
Roots: The root system consists of a slender branching taproot. Colonies
of plants are occasionally formed.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Fiield pansy propogates itself by
HABITAT TYPES: Habitats include limestone glades, moist sand
prairies, fields, edges of sandy paths, and waste places. Sandy areas with
a history of disturbance are preferred.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: The preference is full or partial sun, moist
to mesic conditions, and a light friable soil containing some sand. However,
this wildflower adapts to other kinds of soil as well.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from mid-
spring to early summer and lasts about 1½ months.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Field pansy has a large and somewhat
disjointed distribution. It is found throughout the southern and mid-
Atlantic states from Florida to New York. It is generally absent from the
New England states (excepting Massachusetts). It occurs through all
the Gulf coast states into the southwest as far as Arizona. It also occurs
throughout the Ohio Valley, most of the lower and central midwest, and
in much of the Rocky Mountain states. It is absent from the upper midwest
states and western states and does not occur in the far western states. It
also occurs in Ontario and the far western Canadian provinces, but does
not occur in the eastern provinces, including Quebec and the Atlantic
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The nectar and pollen of the flowers
attract mostly bees, although small butterflies and skippers may also visit
the flowers. The caterpillars of various Fritillary butterflies (Boloria spp.,
Speyeria spp., etc.) and moths feed on the foliage of Viola spp. (Violets).
The seeds are eaten in limited amounts by the ruffed grouse, bobwhite,
wild turkey, mourning dove, and some songbirds. Violets are not a pre-
ferred food source of mammalian herbivores, although rabbits and deer
will browse on the foliage occasionally.
Crooked Run Valley