Saturday 13 December 2014

what is the difference between a pansy and a viola

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Pansys and Violas are flowering plants that belong to the violet family Violaceae. They belong to the same plant genus, Viola, which contains between 525 and 600 species. Some are perennial plants, some are annual plants, and a few are small shrubs. 

Flowers exhibit bilateral symmetry and are formed from five petals; four are upswept or fan-shaped petals with two per side, and there is one broad, lobed lower petal pointing downward. The shape of the petals and placement defines many species.

These small plants can flower for a long period and tolerate winter temperatures. Some can even bloom all through winter and as such are used extensively in bedding displays. Blooms on both types of these plants need to dead headed regularly otherwise the plants will put their energy into seed production. 

The viola, originally a small wildflower, is the ancestor of the modern pansy. Pansys started to be cultivated and hybridised in the 19th cenutry from Viola Tricolour.  Eventually the blooms began to get bigger and bigger and the blotch appeared as a chance seedling in the 1840s. In the 1860s efforts were made to produce a more compacted plants which were called Violas.  None of these plants had a blotch present.

The term pansy is normally used for those multi-coloured, large-flowered cultivars which are raised annually or biennially from seed and used extensively in bedding. The terms viola and violet are normally reserved for small-flowered annuals or perennials, including the species.

Viola is the genus name, and so it is misleading to distinguish between the term pansy and viola. There is no genetic difference between a pansy and a viola, and the two are often crossed to form many varieties. Pansy is just a common name given to the larger flowered hybrids derived by hybridization from several species in the section Melanium of the genus Viola, particularly Viola tricolor.  Neither African violets (Saintpaulia) or dogtooth violets (Erythronium dens-canis) are related to the true Viola.


Usually smaller than traditional pansies, violas may have rays but these should not be so thick as to form a blotch. A viola plant is shorter than the pansy with smaller blossoms. 

Flower colours vary within in the genus, ranging from violet, through various shades of blue, yellow, white, and cream.  Some some types are bicolored, often blue and yellow. Flowering is often profuse, and may last for much of the spring and summer.


Pansy's can grow up to 12 inches tall and their flowers are usually larger, about 2 to 3 inches in diameter.  A key difference is that a pansy has a blotch on the face of the bloom. 

Pansies bloom in mixes of yellow, white, blue, pink, burgundy, lavender, orange, and red. Pansies are generally propagated by seeds; however, some varieties are propagated by cuttings such as Arkwright's Ruby.

Viola arvensis (field pansy)
Viola banksii (Australian native violet, ivy-leaved violet)
Viola biflora (yellow wood violet, twoflower violet)
Viola canina (heath dog violet)
Viola cheiranthifolia (Teide violet)
Viola corsica (Corsican pansy)
Viola glabella (stream violet)
Viola hederacea (Australian native violet, ivy-leaved violet)
Viola hirta (hairy violet)
Viola labradorica (alpine violet)
Viola odorata (sweet violet)
Viola pedunculata (yellow pansy)
Viola persicifolia (fen violet)
Viola praemorsa (canary violet)
Viola pubescens (downy yellow violet)
Viola riviniana (common dog violet)
Viola rostrata (long-spurred violet)
Viola sororia(common blue violet, hooded violet)
Viola tricolor (wild pansy, heartsease)

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