The pansy is a sister flower to the violet, as they’re both of the viola genus, and descend from a pretty weed that grew in the grain fields and hedgerows of early 19th Century England. Cultivation began, with the desire to produce a round flower with overlapping petals, and as you can see from the picture to the left, that objective has surely been met.
Pansies are available in a huge range of colors from white and pale yellow, through gold and orange to red, and on to blue, violet, and finally to a purple so dark it appears almost black. A great many bi-colored and many tri-colored flowers are also available, and many variants have quite showy markings on the face of the flower. Ah yes, the face. The common name, pansy, is derived from the French word pensée (which means thought.) The flower is so named because some think it resembles a human face; and indeed, in the heat of August, the plant often droops forward, as if in deep thought.
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Pansies have an forgettable, delicate perfume-like fragrance. Many observers (can one observe a scent?) say that the fragrance is more noticeable in the early morning and at dusk, especially for a concentrated arrangement. The yellow or blue pansy flowers seem to have the strongest fragrance, but don’t be shy, if you’re buying in a florist, of putting your nose down into the flowers (allergies permitting) and inhaling deeply to find the most fragrant available.
The pansy, because its name is derived from “thought,” carries the meaning of loving thoughts. Some consider the pansy to be a flower of remembrance, and they’re often seen at memorial services and in cemeteries. The same meaning, of loving thoughts, is also applicable to those who are still with us, and in this case the pansy not only sends loving thoughts, but also asks for loving thoughts in return. For this reason, pansies are always an appropriate bouquet for someone with whom you share a friendship or a special bond.