This plant is an annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial (usually an
annual or biennial in Illinois). It is about 5-14" tall, erect to
sprawling, and sparingly to abundantly branched. The stems are
light green to purplish green, glabrous, and angular. Alternate
leaves occur along these stems; their blades are ¾-1½" long (not
including their petioles) and variously shaped. Lower leaf blades
are cordate-ovate, while middle to upper leaf blades are lanceolate or
oblong-lanceolate. All leaf blades are medium green, glabrous (or
so), and sparsely crenate-dentate along their margins. Sometimes a few
scattered hairs occur along the midveins on the lower sides of the
blades. The petioles are about ¼-½" long and relatively broad. At the
base of each leaf petiole, there is a pair of leafy stipules that clasp
the stem. These stipules are about ¾-1½" long and deeply
pinnatifid. Because of their large size, the stipules are often
difficult to distinguish from the leaf blades.
flowers are produced from the leaf axils on long ascending pedicels
with nodding tips. The pedicels are light green to purplish green and
glabrous. Each flower is ¾-1¼" across, consisting of 5 widely
spreading petals, 5 sepals, a pistil with a swollen stigma, and 5
inserted stamens. The typical flower has violet or purple upper petals,
white lateral petals, and a yellow lower petal, but other color
variations are possible. Several purple veins originate from the
throat of the flower. The lateral petals have small tufts of white hair
their bases, while the lower petal terminates in a nectar spur that is
short and blunt. The sepals are medium green or purplish green,
glabrous, lanceolate, and about ¼" long; they are much shorter
than the petals. The blooming period occurs from late
spring to mid-summer for about 1-2 months; sometimes the
flowers will bloom later in the summer or autumn. The flowers are
Fertile flowers are replaced by seed capsules about ½" long that
are ovoid-oblongoid in shape and glabrous. At maturity, each seed
capsule divides into 3 segments, ejecting the seeds. The root system is
shallow and fibrous.
The preference is full or
partial sun, moist to mesic conditions, cool to warm summer
temperatures, and soil that is loamy, gravelly, or sandy. There is a
tendency for this plant to spontaneously reseed itself, although it is
not particularly aggressive.
naturalized populations of Johnny Jump-Up are uncommon; so far it has
been found primarily in the NE section of the state (see Distribution
Johnny Jump-Up was
introduced into the United States from Europe as an ornamental plant.
As a naturalized plant, it is typically encountered in such habitats as
uncultivated areas of gardens, gravelly areas along the foundations of
buildings, vacant lots, nursery plots, and waste areas with sparse
vegetation. Areas with a history of disturbance are strongly preferred.
Johnny Jump-Up is widely cultivated in flower gardens.
In Germany, Müller (1873/1883) observed
honeybees, bumblebees, a long-tongued bee (Anthophora sp.
fly (Rhingia sp.
and butterflies visiting the flowers of Johnny
Jump-Up for nectar. Another Syrphid fly, Syritta pipiens
on pollen and was probably non-pollinating. Other insects feed on the
foliage, plant juices, etc., of Johnny Jump-Up and other
violets (Viola spp.
These insects feeders include the caterpillars
(Variegated Fritillary) and other
Fritillary butterflies (Boloria
); caterpillars of
the moths Apantesis nais
(Nais Tiger Moth), Archips
(Omnivorous Leafroller), Elaphria
(Grateful Midget), Eubaphe mendica
(The Beggar), Hypercompe
(Giant Leopard Moth), Spodoptera dolichos
Armyworm), and Xestia
(Smith's Dart); larvae of Ametastegia
(Violet Sawfly); the larvae of Prodiplosis violicola
(Violet Gall Midge); the aphids Myzus
; and the thrips Odontothrips pictipennis
(for more information,
see Bouseman & Sternberg, 2001; Covell, 1984/2005; Wagner,
2005; Cranshaw, 2004; Eastman, 1992; Hottes & Frison, 1931; and
1968). The value of violets to vertebrate animals is relatively minor.
The seeds are eaten by such birds as the Mourning Dove, Slate-Colored
Junco, Bobwhite, Wild Turkey, and Ruffed Grouse (Martin et al.,
1951/1961; Lewis, 1993), while the foliage is browsed occasionally by
the Cottontail Rabbit.
An herbal garden at Meadowbrook
Park in Urbana,
Another common name of Viola
is Wild Pansy. Johnny Jump-Up is
one of the parent species of the modern pansy, Viola ×
, which has larger flowers (1½" across or
are many cultivated forms of Johnny Jump-Up that have differently
colored flowers of variable size. Some of these cultivars display
characteristics that suggest hybridization with another introduced
species, Viola bicolor
(Field Pansy). In general, Johnny Jump-Up is a
more robust plant with tricolored flowers, while Field Pansy
has bicolored flowers that are smaller (about ½" across). This
latter species also occurs in Illinois.