The magnificent pansy can bring any winter garden to life with the vast array of colors that define this lovely flower. But the pansy is much more than just an ornamental flower for a pretty garden — it has a long history that’s bursting with symbolism.
Pansy flowers can be used to symbolize both love and thoughtfulness. Deep thinkers have turned to the pansy as a sign of contemplation. On the other hand, forbidden lovers used it to convey secret messages. The incredible coloring allows this flower to say a great deal with just five petals.
The garden pansy is best grown in cool to warm climates, and can blossom throughout winter. Its origin can be traced back to wild violas, and the easy-growing pansy is perfect for new gardeners. To learn more about this flower and its symbolism, read this guide.
What Does The Flower Mean?
The pansy is a flower used to symbolize love and free thought. With an incredible variety of colors and delicate patterning, anyone can use it to create a heartfelt message for a loved one.
The common or garden pansy is a hybrid plant from the genus viola, most often the Viola tricolor or wild pansy. Known for large flowers with a diverse array of colors, this flower has become a popular garden flower.
It’s certain to brighten up any flower bed, and an arrangement of pansy is a wonderful gift.
Love and thought have been symbolized by the wild pansy and the garden pansy for many years.
Etymological Meaning Of The Flower
The etymology of the word “pansy” relates to one of the main symbolic interpretations of the pansy. “Pansy” comes from the French word pensée, meaning “thought”. This itself comes from the Latin term pendere, which translates as “weigh”, or “consider”, and became pensare.
The pansy is a hybrid plant of the genus viola, especially the Viola tricolor. The Viola tricolor is sometimes known as “wild pansy”, and was the ancestor of the cultivated “garden pansy”. Viola tricolor can also be referred to as “heartsease”.
Other names for the wild pansy include “love-in-idleness”, “Johnny Jump up”, and “heart’s delight”.
From the name alone, you can see the twin meanings of the pansy. It’s both a symbol of thought and remembrance, and a statement of love.
Symbolism Of The Flower
There are two distinct meanings to the pansy: love, and thought.
An early meaning of the flower was that of thought and consideration. This meaning was used by Shakespeare in his play Hamlet. As Ophelia hands out flowers, she states, “There’s pansies, that’s for thought”.
The meaning of thought and remembrance is an old symbolism, but it’s still in use today. A gift of this flower can be a way to show someone you’re thinking of them. Some societies dedicated to free thinking have adopted the flower as their emblem.
But it also has a connection to romance. Love is another classical meaning of the pansy, and particularly the wild pansy. Wild pansies were used in love potions, and to symbolize affection.
In Victorian times, the use of the pansy symbolized forbidden love. Giving your beloved a pansy meant you were thinking of your forbidden romance.
It isn’t just romantic love that the pansy can symbolize. The flower is also used to signify platonic or familial love. It can also show purity of feeling with it.
Flower Color Meanings
There are few flowers with quite the same depth of color as the pansy. Many has bred this flower specifically for their incredible coloring, and typically the petals display two or three shades. It is one of the rare flowers that comes in shades of blue!
A white pansy, like many other white flowers, is a symbol of purity and innocence. They convey a sense of spirituality. A gift of white pansy is suitable for many occasions, but can be used to signify an early blossoming of love.
Blue is rare in the flower world, and a blue pansy is an ardent expression of trust, honesty, and devotion. A purple pansy is a sign of wisdom and dignity. Blue and especially purple pansies can symbolize thought and consideration.
Red is the color of passion, and with the pansy, this is a symbol of passionate, romantic love. With the old connotation of forbidden love, you might choose this as a gift given from a secret admirer.
A pansy can be used to symbolize romantic love, but it also stands for platonic love. Yellow and orange pansies are joyful, and given as a gift to cheer people up. Friends and family might give orange or yellow pansies to someone who has been going through tough times.
Lighter shades typically denote a gentleness in thought, where darker shades can symbolize passionate feeling.
The meaning of pansies can get quite complex, as they combine many colors. A pansy that combines blue and white might symbolize respect, and an innocence of feeling. A pansy with petals that are red and yellow might say you are joyful in your love for another.
Meaningful Botanical Characteristics Of The Flower
One of the most notable botanical characteristics of the pansy is the color patterns that form on the petals. Pansies can be a single block color, two toned, or with the distinctive dark center that forms the “face” of the pansy.
There’s even greater variety within this. Some pansies have dark splotches of color, while others have pencil thin lines radiating from the center.
The arrangement of the petals on a pansy are distinct. Pansies have five petals: two overlapping at the top of the flower, one either side, and one large petal at the base, typically with an indentation.
Although there are some distinct features of the poppy, within this complex hybrid plant there is a wealth of variety.
Despite the long history, the flower as we know it today has only been around since the 1800s. The garden pansy was cultivated and crossbred from various types of the wild viola, most typically the Viola tricolor.
Pansies are winter bloomers in warmer climates. They prefer to be planted in sunshine, or in partial sunshine, and with good draining soil. Pansies have been cultivated and selectively bred for ornamental purposes, which makes them quite an easy flower to grow. Many choose the pansy to brighten up an otherwise dull winter garden.
Special Occasions For The Pansy Flowers
There are many occasions when you might consider gifting the pansy. The diverse range of coloring make it possible to craft your own unique message with it. The most common reason for giving a this flower is to show love, or as a symbol of respect and admiration.
The Victorians used it as a symbol for forbidden love. Although we don’t recommend chasing unwanted affection, it can be a symbolic gift from a secret admirer. Consider using blue or purple, to show your respect and devotion.
Pansy is the birth flower for the month of February. If you’re looking for a birthday gift for a February friend, then consider an arrangement of pansies. Yellow and orange signify cheerfulness and joy — perfect for a birthday gift.
The coloring and beauty of the flower makes it a unique gift, sure to cheer up any home. There are winter flowering pansies, and the bright colors can be a symbol of optimism in the short winter days.
Flower Cultural Significance
In the language of flowers, pansies are a symbol of secret courtship. Honeyflower and pansy would be left by a lover to say: “I am thinking of our forbidden love”.
According to writer James Shirley Hibberd, the French custom was to give a bride an arrangement of pansies and marigolds — but not to indicate joy. This was instead a symbol of domestic woes.
Shakespeare used the pansy several times across his works. Ophelia in Hamlet also mentioned it, where she describes it as a “for thought”. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the heartsease, or wild pansy, is used to create a love potion.
When dropped on the eyelids, the person will fall in love with “the next live creature that it sees”. And in The Taming of the Shrew, love-in-idleness (wild pansy) is described as creating the effect of falling in love.
According to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Violet tricolor was actually created by Cupid. Cupid aimed his arrow at a woman, but missed and hit the little white flower. The flower was then stained with purple, and became love-in-idleness. When the juice from love-in-idleness was extracted, it could be used as a love potion.
Pansies have also inspired the visual arts. Painters such as Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Henri Fantin-Latour have all depicted the pansy in their artworks.
Due to its connotations of “free thought”, several Freethought societies adopted it as their emblem. The American Union, Humanists, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation have all used the flower to display critical thinking.
The Viola tricolor, or wild pansy, was a cultural symbol of love. It’s associated with myths and legends relating to the Roman goddess Aphrodite. Some legends suggest it used to be white, but was stained purple by Aphrodite to stop people worshiping it.
Garden pansies were cultivated due to the wide range of coloring that could be found in wild pansies. Eager gardeners crossbred these wild violas, to create the pansy that we all love today.
A winter bloomer, pansies planted in fall can sometimes flower all the way through to spring. Because of their cultivation, many pansies can bloom within nine weeks of planting.
Some pansies are able to reseed themselves. That means that when your pansies start to die out after a few years, a second generation might take their place.
The pansy is the national flower of Osaka, in Japan.
Not all pansies have a scent. A German fable describes all pansies once having a powerful scent, and people would trample over the grass in their haste to pick the wildflower. This meant there was no grass for the cattle, and the cows became starved. The pansies prayed to give up their scent, and the grass grew wild again.
The garden pansy was cultivated for its vibrant colors. It’s mostly used as an ornamental plant, and can brighten up winter gardens with a late flowering.
The entire pansy flower is edible, including the sepal, making it a popular choice for fresh salads. Pansies can also be candied, and used with desserts. Because of their attractive coloring, pansies are a popular garnish. They can be found on salads, smoothies, cakes, and other desserts.
Aromatic wild pansies can be used to create perfumes, and this was a popular usage during Roman and Celtic times. Pansies are most fragrant around dawn and dusk.
The wild pansy has been used in medicine for centuries, and is still in use today. It contains cyclotides, a stable peptide that is used in drug development, and could potentially be used to treat cancer.
Pansies are also diuretics, and can help treat urinary infections. Other aspects of the flower can help to treat inflammation and respiratory infections.
The versatile pansy can also be used as a clothes dye!
What Is The Symbolism Of A Pansy Flower Tattoo?
The flower signifies love and thought. A tattoo of the flower can be a symbol of your love for another, or a sign of remembrance. The colors used in the tattoo can add an extra layer of meaning to the pansy. Choose purple to honor someone you respect, or red to indicate a passionate love.
The language of the pansy is rich and complex. Both a symbol of love and deep thought, it has made many appearances in art and literature. As a flower specifically bred for its beauty, the pansy adds life to any winter garden.
Gifts of pansies can symbolize your love for someone, and with the many colors, you can create your own unique message.
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