AskDefine | Define heartsease

Dictionary Definition



1 a common and long cultivated European herb from which most common garden pansies are derived [syn: wild pansy, Johnny-jump-up, love-in-idleness, pink of my John, Viola tricolor]
2 violet of Pacific coast of North America having white petals tinged with yellow and deep violet [syn: two-eyed violet, Viola ocellata]
3 common Old World viola with creamy often violet-tinged flowers [syn: field pansy, Viola arvensis]
4 the absence of mental stress or anxiety [syn: peace, peacefulness, peace of mind, repose, serenity, ataraxis]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A common European wild flower, Viola tricolor; the wild pansy.


Extensive Definition

Heartsease (Viola tricolor) is a common European wild flower, growing as an annual or short-lived perennial. It has been introduced into North America, where it has spread widely, and is known as the Johnny Jump Up (though this name is also applied to similar species such as the Yellow Pansy). It is the progenitor of the cultivated Pansy, and is therefore sometimes called Wild Pansy; before the cultivated Pansies were developed, "Pansy" was an alternative name for the wild form. Heartsease is a small plant of creeping habit, reaching at most 15cm in height, with flowers about 1.5 cm in diameter. It grows in short grassland on farms and wasteland, chiefly on acid or neutral soils. It is usually found in partial shade. It flowers from April to September. The flowers can be purple, blue, yellow or white. They are hermaphrodite and self-fertile, pollinated by bees.
As its name implies, Heartsease has a long history of use in herbalism. It has been recommended, among other uses, as a treatment for epilepsy, asthma, skin diseases and eczema. It has expectorant properties, and so has been used in the treatment of chest complaints such as bronchitis and whooping cough. It is also a diuretic, leading to its use in treating rheumatism and cystitis.
The flowers have also been used to make yellow, green and blue-green dyes, while the leaves can be used to make a chemical indicator.
Long before cultivated pansies were developed, Heartsease was associated with thought in the "language of flowers", often by its alternative name of pansy (from the French "pensée" - thought): hence Ophelia's often quoted line in Shakespeare's Hamlet, "There's pansies, that's for thoughts". What Shakespeare had in mind was Heartsease, not a modern garden pansy. Shakespeare makes a more direct reference to Heartsease in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Oberon sends Puck to gather "a little western flower" that maidens call "Love-in-idleness". Oberon's account is that he diverted an arrow from Cupid's bow aimed at "a fair vestal, throned by the west" (supposedly Queen Elizabeth I) to fall upon the plant "before milk-white, now purple with love's wound". The "imperial vot'ress" passes on "fancy-free", destined never to fall in love. The juice of the heartsease now, claims Oberon, "on sleeping eyelids laid, Will make or man or woman madly dote Upon the next live creature that it sees." Equipped with such powers, Oberon and Puck control the fates of various characters in the play to provide Shakespeare's essential dramatic and comic structure for the play.
Heartsease has a large number of alternative colloquial names, up to two hundred.
Heartsease is also the title of a book in The Changes trilogy, written by Peter Dickinson.
heartsease in Bulgarian: Трицветна теменуга
heartsease in Catalan: Viola tricolor
heartsease in Czech: Violka trojbarevná
heartsease in Danish: Almindelig Stedmoderblomst
heartsease in German: Wildes Stiefmütterchen
heartsease in Estonian: Aaskannike
heartsease in Spanish: Viola tricolor
heartsease in French: Pensée sauvage
heartsease in Icelandic: Þrenningarfjóla
heartsease in Lithuanian: Trispalvė našlaitė
heartsease in Hungarian: Háromszínű árvácska
heartsease in Dutch: Driekleurig viooltje
heartsease in Norwegian Nynorsk: Stemorsblom
heartsease in Polish: Fiołek trójbarwny
heartsease in Romanian: Panseluţă
heartsease in Russian: Фиалка трёхцветная
heartsease in Northern Sami: Gieddeviola
heartsease in Serbian: Дан-ноћ (биљка)
heartsease in Finnish: Keto-orvokki
heartsease in Swedish: Styvmorsviol
heartsease in Turkish: Yabani menekşe
heartsease in Ukrainian: Фіалка триколірна
heartsease in Chinese: 三色堇
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