Sunday, February 18, 2024

Field Pansy - Viola rafinesquei

Field pansy, also known as Johnny jump-up,  (Viola rafinesquei) is one of at least 12 species of violets found in Florida.  The taxonomy of our violets remains a bit confused, but this member is easily distinguished from the others.  To me, at least, it looks quite similar to the popular horticultural pansy; hence its common name.  In fact, horticultural varieties of pansies are violet hybrids.  Field pansy is native to much of the Florida Panhandle with an outlying population in Marion County. It is a widespread species outside of Florida - found throughout eastern North America and west of the Mississippi to Arizona, New Mexico and South Dakota. Throughout its range, it is most common in open disturbed upland habitats in a wide variety of soil types.  

Field pansy is an annual that can spread rapidly by seed or by undergound rhizomes.  Because of this, it is sometimes considered weedy.  Like other members of this genus, it is low growing, but it forms erect upright stems with spatula-shaped leaves up the stems to just below the solitary flowers.  Each bloom stands 3-4 inches high and consists of 5 dark-veined petals with the side petals being "bearded" and the lip having a distinct yellow patch.  The colors of these petals varies from nearly white to blue.  One characteristic that distinguishes it from other violets outside of our range is that the petals are longer than the green sepals.  Like other members of the violet genus, flowering occurs in the spring.

In states north of Florida, violets are important host plants for butterfly species like the great spangled fritillary.  In Florida, this genus is sometimes used by the variegated fritillary, though it is not considered to be a main host.  Violets are pollinated mostly by small bees. The seeds are eaten by doves and other ground birds.  Field pnasy is sometimes offered for sale in states outside of Florida and marketed as Johnny jump-ups and/or by its former Latin name - Viola tricolor.  

The photo above was taken recently by my friend and wonderful photographer, Floyd Griffith, and used by permission.

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