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Reddish Vale Country Park

Flowers/July

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Wild Pansy

The Wild Pansy is also known as Heartsease and is a native perennial.

Quite common throughout Britain on grassland and waste ground but rarer in Ireland.

Grows to a height of 30cm.

The Wild pansy has been commonly associated with love.

 

The Wild Pansy (Heartsease) is a common wild flower, growing as an annual or short lived perennial. It is the progenitor of the cultivated Pansy, and is why it is now known as Wild Pansy.

As the old name implies, Heartsease has a long history of use in herbalism. It has been recomended, among other uses, as a treatment for epilepsy, asthma, skin diseases and eczema. It has expectorant properties, and so has been used in the treatment of chest complaints such as bronchitis and whooping cough. It is also a diuretic, leading to its use in treating rheumatism and cystitis.

The flowers have also been used to make yellow, green and blue-green dyes, while the leaves can can be used to make a chemical indicator. Long before cultivated pansies were developed, Heartsease was associated with the thought in the "language of flowers", often by its alternative name of Pansy (from the French "pensee" - thought): hence Ophelia's often quoted line in Shakespeare's Hamlet, "There's pansies, that's for thoughts". What Shakespeare had in mind was Heartsease, not a modern garden Pansy.

Shakespeare makes a more direct reference to Heartsease in A midsummer Night's Dream. Oberon sends Puck to gather "a little western flower" that maidens call "Love-in-idleness". Oberon's account is that he diverted an arrow from cupid's bow, aimed at "a fair vestal, throned by the west" (supposedly Queen Elizabeth I) to fall upon the plant "before milk-white, now purple with love's wound". The "imperial vot'ress" passes on "fancy free", destined never to fall in love. The juice of the Heartsease now, claims Oberon, "on sleeping eyelids laid, Will make man or woman madly dote Upon the next live creature that it sees". Equipped with such powers, Oberon and Puck control the fates of various characters in the play to provide Shakespear's essential dramatic and comic structure to the play.

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