This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
This plant has not been found in seed-bearing beds. The Marsh Violet, however, is found in beds ranging from the Pre-glacial to the Neolithic period. It is to-day found in the Temperate and Arctic Zones in Arctic Europe, X. Africa, X. and W. Asia, as far as Siberia and N.W. India. It is found in every county in Great Britain, as far as Shetland, as well as in Ireland and the Channel Islands. In Yorkshire and in Scotland it is found at altitudes of 1000 ft.
Heart's Ease is one of the commonest cornfield weeds, coming up not only in the furrows, but covering every available space it can obtain. In its forms it varies tremendously, and V. tricolor or the garden form will revert to a form like this. It is found also on waste ground around farmyards and by the wayside.
The stem is angular, spreading, and branched, and more or less lies on the ground except at the tip, the leaves have long stalks, and are narrowly elliptical, with rounded teeth or oval, the stipules are divided with lobes larger upwards, or deeply divided, and very variable. The whole plant is slender and delicate. Many plants grow together in a station, and vary much in general habit according to the crops with which they grow.
The flowers are white with a yellow centre, and the calyx is longer than the petals, and hairy. The capsule is rounded, and contains numerous brown shining smooth seeds, inversely egg-shaped.
The plant is usually 6 in. high, sometimes 9. It is in flower for nearly six months, from April onward. It is annual, and reproduced by the numerous seeds.
The Heart's Ease is pollinated by Thrips, though Darwin said if bees were excluded it was more or less barren. When the flowers were covered up they yielded only 18 capsules, in which some possessed several good seeds, some only 1 - 3; but 105 large capsules were produced when uncovered.
The few capsules formed when the plant is covered up are due to curling up of the petals when the stigma is covered with pollen. The flowers are visited by Plusia, and by Humble-bees, and Rhingia rostrata.
The plant is not frequently visited, but when insects do visit it the flower withers. For the secretion of the nectar certain atmospheric conditions are needed, and insects perceive it by the odour. There is a lip-like valve in the stigmatic cavity by which pollination is facilitated in V. tricolor, but not in this plant, the opening of the stigma lacking the lip, and it is curved inwards. The plant is self-pollinated soon after the flower opens. The pollen grains are 4- or 5-sided prisms.
The plant is dispersed by its own peculiar device, the valves of the capsule opening and expelling the seeds, when dry, by an explosive motion due to the shrivelling or drying up to which the parts are subjected,
Heart's Ease is a sand plant, which is especially characteristic of sandy formations, and requires a sand soil, or sandy loam, or alluvium.
The Queen of Spain Fritillary, and a Fly, Lanscania aencea, feed on it, also the High Brown Fritillary.
The specific name arvensis was bestowed by Linnaeus to indicate its predilection for arable ground.
The names given to V. tricolor apply to this plant - Beedy's Eyes, Bleeding Heart, Buttery-entry, Call-me-to-you, Cats-faces, Cull-me-to-you, Face-and-Hood, Fancy Flamy, Garden Gate, Godfathers and Godmothers, Heart's Ease, Heart seed, Herb Trinity, Jack-behind-the-garden-gate, Jump-up-and-kiss-me, Kiss-me, Kitty-Run-the-Streets, Leap-up-and-kiss-me, Live- (and Love-) -in-Idleness, Love-true, Meet-her-i'-th'-entry Kiss-her-i'-the-Buttery, Monkey's Face, Pance, Stepmother, Three Faces in a Hood, Two-Faces-Under-the-Sun.
Flamy was the name given because its colours are like the flame in wood. Herb Trinity is given because of the three colours of the flower. Shakespeare uses the name Love-in-idleness.
Maidens call it Love-in-idleness.
Miss Alcott, in Little Women, has the following: The story of panzy - how the stepmother leaf sat up in her green chair in purple and gold; how the two own children in gay yellow had each its little seat, while the stepchildren in dull colours both sat on one small stool, and the poor little father in his red nightcap was kept out of sight in the middle of the flower.