This species of violet grows in arable land or wasteland in both the East of Scotland, West coastal regions and the Isles.
It is a typical pansy, but distinguished from its near relation, the wild pansy, by its smaller flower heads, which measure up to 20mm vertically, and its creamy white petals, with a yellow tinge to the bottom petal and often mauve-tinted at the top. As with many in the violet family the field pansy and the wild pansy can cross pollinate. The flower contains five petals which are shorter than the pointed green sepals behind and tend to droop downwards on a hook-shaped stem.
The leaves are narrow, oval and bluntly serrated, not always uniform in shape, and grow as singles or in pairs out of an upright squareish stalk.
The extracted juice of the pansy flower was once used as an ingredient in love-potions. It has the old folk name of ‘Heartsease’ and was mentioned by Ophelia in Shakespere’s Hamlet, when she gives a pansy to another character and says ‘that’s for thoughts,’ because in the old language of flowers pansies represented loving thoughts. In fact the name pansy comes from the French pensée, which translates as ‘thought.’
John Gerard, the 16th century herbalist, recommended Pansy tea to help cure inflammation in the chest. It was also considered a good remedy for fevers.