8 April 2017 – American Field Pansy – Viola bicolor

8 April 2017 Botany Bill Journal

The American Field Pansy (Viola bicolor Pursh) is found throughout the eastern part of North America with a small number of outlying populations reported from the west. It is commonly found on the Refuge on all three tracts in open disturbed areas like the old firing ranges and powerline right-of-ways.

This species, with its dainty little flower, is distinguished from another annual Viola species found in Maryland (Viola arvensis Murray) by its petals which well surpassing its sepals. The flower’s five petals are usually white to a pale purple with darker stripes radiating from the flowers center, and are all the same color. The American Field Pansy is similar to Johnny Jump-ups (Viola tricolor.) The petals on that species are variously colored commonly with the lower three petals cream-white and upper two purple-black.

As is the case with other species, past controversy surrounds this one. The debate was over whether or not it was introduced from the Old World as a variety of Viola kitabeliana. Currently most botanists accept this as a separate species native to North America. A synonym for this plant is Viola rafinesquei Greene.

It is in full bloom in Maryland right now. See if you can find it.


  1. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 20+ vols. New York and Oxford.
  2. Viola bicolor“. NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Accessed 8 April 2017.
  3. Weakley, A.S. 2012. Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. UNC Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden. 1225 pp.
  4. Weakley, Ludwig, and Townsend. 2012. The Flora of Virginia.

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