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Periwinkle - Another Name for "Daddy"

Self published Christian romance author of four books, with more on the way. I may not be famous, but as long as I'm writing, I'm happy!

Pretty little periwinkle flowers (Catharanthus roseus)

Pretty little periwinkle flowers (Catharanthus roseus)

About the Periwinkle

The dainty little periwinkle is a common flower in the herbaceous dogbane family that can be easily found in home and garden centers in the early spring and summer. It comes in vibrant shades of pink, red and white, and used to adorn lawns, flower gardens and as a landscaping plant around many businesses. And although you've probably seen this flower many times, what you may not know is that there are TWO different species - the Vinca minor (major), and the Catharanthus roseus.

It's important for the integrity of this hub to know the differences in these periwinkle species, as will become evident later on! ;) For now, let's learn more about them...

Vinca minor (major)

With mostly lavendar-blue or purple phlox-like flowers, the Vinca minor is considered a "wild" or invasive periwinkle species, found happily growing along ditch banks and slopes, and used commonly as ground cover in residential or commercial landscaping. It is also commonly known as "dwarf periwinkle" and "creeping myrtle". It thrives equally well in high heat or shade. While an excellent ground cover, Vinca minor can quickly become evasive and take over large areas. It is also extremely toxic to humans and pets if ingested!

The Vinca major species is similar to the Vinca minor, but with slightly broader, more heart shaped leaves, while the leaves of the Vinca minor are smaller, elongated and lance-shaped.

Vinca minor

Creeping Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Creeping Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Vinca major

Vinca major species

Vinca major species

Catharanthus roseus

Native to Madagascar, he Catharanthus roseus (Madagascan Periwinkle), is a common perennial periwinkle with red, white or pink (and sometimes variegated) flowers used mainly as a bedding plant, and what you would normally find in a home or garden center. Popular for its long growing season (spring to late autumn), it's a common flower seen in residential flower gardens and ornamental landscaping, as well as showy hanging baskets. It is also a common ornamental plant in East Africa. Other common names for this petite flower are "bright eyes", "old maid", "Cape periwinkle", and "graveyard plant" - the latter being a reference to the commonly seen periwinkle ground cover in small cemeteries.

Less commonly known about the Catharanthus roseus is its long standing importance in medicine! Cultivated in ancient Mesopotamia in 2600 B.C.E as an herbal medicine, extracts of the plant are also used in traditional Chinese medicine against diabetes, malaria and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Vinca alkaloids such as vinblastine and vincristine, are commonly used in chemotherapy medications to treat some cancers, although it is a costly and complex process. Unfortunately, aside from approved medical uses, ALL parts of the Catharanthus roseus are HIGHLY TOXIC to humans and pets when ingested, and can cause symptoms ranging from mild stomach cramps, cardiac issues, hypotension, seizures, comas and even death.

Daddy's Periwinkles

My Daddy loved many different kinds of flowers - hydrangeas, azaleas, tulips and roses were among some of his favorites. But one year, he discovered the humble little periwinkle, and it started to "grow on him" (no pun intended!). An easy flower to grow and maintain, he used it to adorn my Momas' solar lamp post in the front yard. (see photo below) Daddy was proud of his periwinkles and fed and watered them religiously. His attentive care resulted in a thick and healthy "periwinkle bush" around the lamp post every year where beautiful butterflies and busy honeybees would come to find sweet nectar, and skittish rabbits would run to as a safe haven from dangers lurking nearby. Daddy was profoundly proud of his showy periwinkles and would often urge me outside to take notice of them whenever I came to visit. Being perennials, they came back every year and received the same gracious attention from Daddy as in the years before. I remember one year, the lawn guy accidentally cut them down and Daddy was afraid they were gone forever. But much to his delight, they returned the next Spring just as plush, healthy and pretty as they were the year before!

Daddy's Periwinkle "bush" around the solar lamp post

Daddy's Periwinkle "bush" around the solar lamp post

Catharanthus roseus Means "Daddy"!

My Daddy wasn't named after the periwinkle, but they DO share something in common - their NAME! As I was researching the Web recently, I ran across information about the periwinkle and was amazed to find out that the botanical name for the periwinkle that my father planted and loved so much is actually Catharanthus roseus, and my father's given name is "Carthoris"! Not EXACTLY the same, but similar in spelling! For further reference, Catharanthus comes from the Greek origin - "cathar" meaning "pure", and "anthus" meaning "flower". "Roseus" derives from the Latin, "rose", meaning "rose-colored" or "rosy".

Although he wasn't named for it, in many ways, my Daddy reminds me of the humble periwinkle. As the first half of its' Greek name suggests, my Daddy too, was a "pure" and simple man; not showy or flashy - a good man with a pure and tender heart. And like the periwinkles he grew around the lamp post, he, too, was a source of "sweet nectar" for those who loved him, as well as a "safe haven" to whom we could run to and be protected from the dangers of the world around us. Daddy also had a "rosy" demeanor (most of the time, anyway!) and always chose to look at life through "rose-colored" glasses - never wanting to see the worst in any person, place or situation. Like his beloved periwinkles, Daddy lived a pure and simple life and gave SO much beauty, love and protection to those around him!

My Own Periwinkles

I have my OWN Cartharanthus Roseus periwinkles now - planted in two pots on my front porch. Planted last year, I did not know they were perennials and was pleasantly surprised to see them burst forth from their pots a few weeks ago! Knowing what I do now about this special flower that shares my Daddy's namesake, I give them just a little more attention and love than the other flowers around our home, for they are a beautiful and constant reminder of the "pure" love my Daddy gave me, and the "rosy" memories he left behind!

My Periwinkles

My beautiful Cartharanthus roseus periwinkles!

My beautiful Cartharanthus roseus periwinkles!

Close up of my periwinkles

Close up of my periwinkles

Cartharanthus roseus periwinkle flowers

Cartharanthus roseus periwinkle flowers

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