• Name: Dwarf pansy | Viola kitaibeliana
  • Size: 1cm tall
  • Life span: Dwarf pansy is an annual plant (completing its life cycle within one growing season)  
  • Diet: Sunshine (being a plant it uses photosynthesis to produce food)
  • Reproduction: Dwarf pansy reproduces through seeds
  • When to see: Spring (March to May)
  • Where to see: Short coastal turf, open disturbed areas on sandy soils, open sand on eroding coastal dunes, around rabbit burrows, and arable fields. i.e. Rushy Bay, Bryher | Tean | Appletree Banks, Tresco in Scilly.   
  • Conservation status: ICUN Redlist | Vulnerable (in Britain) and Not Threatened (in Europe)
  • Population Trend: Unknown
  • Threats:  Climate change, Coastal erosion, Sea-level rises, loss of habitat. 
  • Fun Fact: 2021 has seen the return of the Dwarf pansy to Tean after a 17 year absence, thanks to ongoing habitat management and restoration work by the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust!  Find out more in our Press Release.

Description:  Nestled within the short coastal turf, or poking its head up in open, disturbed ground such as that found in coastal sand dunes, or at the entrances to rabbit burrows, the Dwarf Pansy (Viola kitaibeliana) is a Scilly speciality.  You won't find it growing anywhere in the Mainland UK!  

Standing no higher than 1 cm tall, this annual plant is something to be believed...if you can find it!  If you are lucky enough to visit when the conditions the previous year have been just right, you may see several hundred flower heads in a patch of just a few square metres.

One of our Islands earliest native flowering species, being in full bloom by the end of March, before withering away for the year towards the end of May at the latest.  Its white to creamy yellow flower-head, with a deep lemon yellow centre edged in purple, grows no wider than 20 mm and sits atop of a nodding, downy stem which helps to capture moisture from the surrounding air. 

The Dwarf pansy adds a splash of colour before other species associated with dune grasslands such as Stork’s-bill, Portland Spurge, Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Buck’s-horn Plantain have even begun to think about making an appearance.

The plant which is classed as Vulnerable is at threat from coastal erosion and inundation by the sea.  The low lying areas on Scilly where it can be found such as Rushy Bay on Bryher are feeling the effects of climate change and sea level rise and there is a risk that this species could be lost in the future.  The Trust is working hard to enhance areas for the Dwarf pansy to grow. 

Want to know more?  Check out our 2021 news regarding the return of the Dwarf pansy to Tean and our Blog Tean's Teeny Tiny Tenants for further information!

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With thanks to BareFoot Photographer for the Dwarf pansy image