pansyThe thing to know about pansies is that they are violets. They belong to the Violet Family, and are members of the genus Viola, as are all true violets. The picture at the right shows one of the violets' defining features: The flower has five petals, of which two of the four upper ones are similar, but the lowest petal is expanded. The flower more or less has bilateral symmetry -- one side of the blossom is a mirror image of the other.

Other characteristics of pansy flowers can only be seen from the side, as in the picture below where a flower has been cut down the middle lengthwise. If you don't know what a stamen or an ovary is, before you read the following you may want to review our Standard Blossom Page.

cross section of a pansy flower

In the above picture, notice how the large, lowest petal creates a fingerlike spur projecting behind the flower's face. The flower has five stamens but I've removed one so you can see the ovary. Notice how one of the two lowest stamens bears an appendage projecting backward into the spur. The appendages produce a clear, sweet nectar, a little of which you can barely see around the head of the arrow pointing out the spur of the lowest petal. If you dissect a pansy the way I have, you will see the nectar glistening, and if you touch the tip of your tongue to the nectar, you will taste how sweet it is! This is what pollinators are wanting when they visit the flower.