The pansy flower is two to three inches in diameter and has two slightly overlapping upper petals, two side petals, and a single bottom petal with a slight beard emanating from the flower's center. The plant may grow to nine inches in height, and prefers sun to varying degrees and well-draining soils.
In the early years of the 19th century, Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennet (1785–1861), daughter of the Lord of Tankerville, collected and cultivated every sort of Viola tricolor (commonly, heartsease) she could procure in her father's garden at Walton-upon-Thames, Surrey. Under the supervision of her gardener, William Richardson, a large variety of plants was produced via cross-breeding. In 1812, she introduced her pansies to the horticultural world, and, in 1813, Mr. Lee, a well-known florist and nurseryman, further cultivated the flower. Other nurserymen followed Lee's example, and the pansy became a favorite among the public.
The Pansy has figured in literature and the visual arts. In William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the juice of the heartsease (Pansy) is a love potion and "on sleeping eyelids laid, will make a man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees."
In Hamlet, Ophelia distributes flowers with the remark, "There's pansies, that's for thoughts"
Margaret Mitchell originally chose Pansy as the name of her Gone with the Wind heroine, but settled on Scarlett just before the book went into print.
Georgia O'Keeffe created a painting of a black pansy called simply, Pansy and followed it with White Pansy in 1927. J. J. Grandville created a fantasy flower called Pensée in his Fleurs Animées, and the 1953 Disney animated film Alice in Wonderland featured a chorus of singing pansies in the Garden of Live Flowers scene.