Johnny-Jump-Up (Field Pansy)

Viola bicolor

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Image of Johnny-jump-up.
Johnny-jump-ups look a lot like tiny pansies.
Edible
Family

Violaceae (violets)

Description

Johnny-jump-up flowers are very small, violet-shaped, washed-out blue or violet, with a very light yellow or white center. Plants growing on acid soils seem to have more intense coloration. Blooms March–May. Leaves to ¾ inch long, rounded, irregularly scalloped. At the base of each leaf is a large stipule (leaflike appendage) deeply lobed like the spread tail of a bird.

Size

Height: to about 3 inches.

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Photo of Johnny-jump-ups, several plants blooming
Johnny-Jump-Ups
Johnny-jump-ups grow in fields, meadows, glades, rights-of-way, disturbed sites, and possibly your front lawn.
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in fields, meadows, glades, rights-of-way, disturbed sites, waste places, and possibly your front lawn. This is not our largest violet, but it's one of the most common. The coloration of these delicate-looking flowers often looks faded.

image of Johnny Jump-Up Field Pansy Distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide, but apparently absent from our northernmost counties.

Status

For a long time, botanists have investigated this plant's relationship to the other violets in North America. As their understandings have changed, so has the scientific name. Thus in other references you may find it referred to as "Viola rafinesquii" and "Viola kitaibeliana var. rafinesquii." Most now believe this plant is entirely native to North America, though in the past, many thought it was introduced long ago from the Old World.

Human connections

Like most other violets and pansies, this plant is edible, and its flowers make a pretty garnish on spring salads. Violets also have a history of being used medicinally and as garden flowers.

Ecosystem connections

Often, when we picture "herbivores," we think of large animals like cattle or deer, and even mice. But "herbivore" also describes a multitude of insects, and they need plant food, too. Violets are the special food plant of fritillary butterfly caterpillars.