A legend tells us that the pansy was white until cupid's arrow pierced one. embarrassed, it turned purple and then yellow and became useful as a love potion.
Pliny the Elder prescribed a garland of pansys, worn on the head, to ward off headaches and dizzy spells.
William Shakespeare mentioned pansys in Hamlet and in A Midsummers-night's Dream.
Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennett (1785-1861), daughter of the Lord of Tankerville, began collecting many sorts of beautiful violas she procured in her father's many gardens at Walton upon-Thames, Surry, England.
With the help of the family's gardener a large variety of sweet, lovely plants was purchased and cross-bred. In 1818 Lady Elizabeth Bennett introduced the pansy to the world.
(The writer's father* told him about their family's land's interest in that particular Bennett family. He said that this is probably why the family loves pansies. "Oct. 1, 1791, a deed was drawn by by the Right Honorable Charles Earl of Tankerville, and the Honorable Henry Astley Bennett conferring the title to the tract in Samuel Shreve (Lt. Col. in the Continental Army) reciting as consideration 340 pounds, 11 shillings, 10 pence and halfpenny."
As a personal note Lt. Col. Samuel Shreve fought for our freedom in the American Revolution in the Continental Army and purchased this land in what is called Ballston in Arlington Country, VA. This was virgin forest at the time, and the capitol of our country was in Philadelphia, Penn., the largest city in America at the time.)
There is, indeed, a legend concerning the pansy. The German legend tells that the plant had a most wonderful scent. People would come from miles around simply to enjoy its captivating aroma. They told others about the experience and more and more people came, trapling down the grasses and other flora around the plants until the land was totally beaten down. Finally the poor plant prayed to God, who had created all the flora on the earth, to find a solution to the problem for the cattle needed the grasses to graze upon. Flowers are so thoughtful, aren't they; we never hear them arguing. God heard the plant's plaintive prayer and removed the strong, beautiful scent and gave it, instead, a most beautiful flower. With no captivating aroma the crowds discontinued coming and the grasses grew back and the cattle ate, produced many calves and abundant milk.
In the past pansies have been used in the making of dye.
Pansies are edible and are high in Vitamin C and A.
*The writer's father, Paul Hancock Shreve, following 30 years with the Department of State in Washington, D.C., did secretarial work with the Correspondence Division of National Wildlife Federation at Laurel Ridge, MD. He loved the outdoor, mountains,and all the trees and flowers.
He and two friends started Boy Scout Troop 125 in which their children learned much of the outdoors that he loved so much. They taught the young people to identify poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, and taught concerning the poisons found in many flowers. This is where the writer gleaned much of his information on the subject. The scouts were also expected to be able to identify at least 25 trees found in the forests of Virginia. How many oak trees an you identify?
There is actually a phobia concerning flowers. Anthophobia is the fear of flowers. This phobia may have originated from a bout with poison ivy or, perhaps, or a fear of germs or bacteria in the earth, or a fear of insects or of bees.
This writer has a bumble bee that likes to follow him around the back of the house. He is confident that it is the same bumble buddy year after year. He looks the same. He refers to this bee as his Bumble Buddy. How sad to be afraid of flowers--or bees.