Also known as Heartsease, this colourful flower can grow in annual or perennial forms, and covers most of Scotland’s arable fields, fallow land and waysides, except for the Central and West Highland regions. It resembles the Field Pansy (see Viola arvensis) but has larger flowers, up to 25mm from top to bottom. Its petals are also longer than the sepals, unlike the Field Pansy whose sepals stretch beyond the length of the petals.
The leaves are heart-shaped at the base, but complex stipules up the stem resemble leaves and have pinnate lobes, i.e. resembling a feather, with a lance-shaped middle lobe.
Flowers come in three colours, any combination of purple, yellow and white, and often all three in one flower, hence its Latin appendage, tricolor. They follow the usual pattern of the flowers of the viola family, having 2 top petals projecting upwards, two side petals of equal size to the top, and one larger lower petal.
Another name for the Wild Pansy is Love-in-Idleness, as referenced by Oberon in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which, according to the Roman myth, Cupid accidentally shot with an arrow, causing its juice to become a highly effective love-potion. That, unfortunately for hopeful lovers, is just a fiction.