Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Wordless Wednesday - Johnny-Jump-Ups Are Heartsease
I started this post as a Wordless Wednesday, but could not keep my mouth shut. These flowers are Johnny-Jump-Ups, also known as Heartsease. In my gardens in coastal Maine, they are the first and last flowers to bloom. The Johnnies jump up in April continuing through November. In years past, I have photographed them coming up through the snow. Native to the Pyrenees and Spain, violas escaped from gardens and naturalized across this country. They are the progenitor of the familiar pansy.
Johnny-Jump-Ups are also called Heartsease with a long history in herbalism. The viola has been used to treat 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. A diuretic, it's been used in treating rheumatism and bladder inflammation. Also, the flowers were considered good for diseases of the heart, from which may have come its popular name of Heartsease as much as from belief in it as a love potion.
A quirk of some violas is the elusive scent of the flowers which temporarily desensitises the receptors of the nose, preventing further scent from being detected from the flower until the nerves recover.
When just opened, Viola flowers are used to decorate salads or in stuffings for poultry or fish. Deserts like soufflés and creams can be flavoured with essence of Viola. The young leaves are edible raw or cooked. The flowers and leaves of some varieties have a distinct vanilla flavor with hints of wintergreen, delicious in salads. Candied violet or crystallized violet is preserved with a coating of egg white and sugar and still made commercially in Toulouse, France. Violet syrup is also made in France from the flowers' extract. In the United States, the syrup is used to make violet scones and marshmallows.
Johnny-Jump-Ups, Viola ordorata are also used to make perfume. Because it comes and goes when it turns off the sense of smell, it's thought of as a flirty fragrance.
In the language of flowers and speaking to the long time popularity of the flowers, Johnny-Jump-Ups have many other names:
Wild Pansy, Love-Lies-Bleeding, Love-in-Idleness, Live-in-Idleness, Loving Idol, Love Idol, Cull Me, Cuddle Me, Call-me-to-you, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, Meet-me-in-the-Entry, Kiss-her-in-the-Buttery (that sounds rude, now doesn't it?), Three-Faces-under-a-Hood (so does that), Kit-run-in-the-Fields, Pink-o'-the-Eye, Kit-run-about, Stepmother, Godfathers and Godmothers, Herb Trinitatis, Herb Constancy, Pink-eyed-John, Bouncing Bet, Flower o'luce, Bird's Eye and Bullweed.
Call it what ever you wish, where ever you wish to call it, the tiny violas give my heart ease whenever I see them. In the spring, I think "Johnny has jumped up - winter is over!" In the late fall, I think "Johnny's still jumping -summer can't really be gone." How can you go wrong with a flower that can be used to treat a snotty nose or a broken heart, to flavor a marshmallow or scone? Now if only I can get violas to take the rap when I run at the mouth on a Wordless Wednesday. Don't blame me; the flowers made me do it.