The Periwinkle: America’s Welcome Invasive Plant

Large periwinkle (Vinca major)

Many variants of the periwinkle plant are native to Europe and Western Asia. It thrives in North America after being introduced by European settlers in the 1700s. It may be the most polite and charming “invader” North America has seen; it certainly has been given a warm welcome.

“Periwinkle Blue” is the colour most commonly associated with this flower, although selective breeding has developed reddish lavender, reddish violet and white cultivars.

Image: sun dazed

White Periwinkle Twins in Florida, USA

The scientific names are Vinca major for the large periwinkle (or “greater periwinkle”) and Vinca minor for the lesser periwinkle, which is sometimes also known as myrtle or the “common periwinkle”. Another variation is the “bigleaf periwinkle”. Periwinkle is a member of the dogbane family.

Antique Rose Emporium Periwinkle in Texas, USA

Recognizing the Periwinkle

The periwinkle flower has five lobes, usually blue, often with a star pattern in the centre. It develops a small fruit which dries and releases a handful of seeds.


Vinca major Greater Periwinkle Apocynaceae flower

The periwinkle prefers moist but well-drained soil in partial shade. It can deal with soil that is only “average” and occasionally dry. If exposed to full sunshine, it will not thrive as its leaves become yellowish.


Lavender Periwinkle

Periwinkle stems are slender and green; they vary from succulent to somewhat woody. Periwinkle stems will form a dense groundcover “mat” as a dense tangle of vines. In gardens, periwinkle is appreciated as evergreen groundcover. In North American forests, it is an invasive species that competes successfully for the forest floor.

The leaves are usually green and glossy. One might see a white or yellowish mid-vein.

Image: dmott9

Vinca minor periwinkle or myrtle

Periwinkles in Folklore

The English botanist, Nicholas Culpeper, claimed that a man and woman should eat periwinkle leaves together in order to “cause love between them”.

One Caribbean voodoo ritual sews periwinkle leaves into the mattress of the marital bed as a way of prolonging a happy marriage. Mixed with magnolia leaves, there is the additional benefit of fidelity in the relationship.

The periwinkle’s blue flowers symbolize spiritual harmony and equilibrium.


Image: dmott9


Madagascar Periwinkle in Virginia, USA

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for witchcraft. Any reader who is concerned about his or her marriage or spiritual well-being should consult a professional adviser.

Boreal Forest, “Vinca minor Lesser Periwinkle“, referenced March 17, 2011.

Ohio State University, “Vinca minor“, referenced March 17, 2011., “Common Periwinkle“, updated May 04, 2010, referenced March 17, 2011.

James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, “Periwinkle (Vinca, Myrtle)“, updated 2003, referenced March 17, 2011.

Georgia Girl, “Love Lore & Legends“, 2011, referenced March 19, 2011.

Annie’s Remedy, “Periwinkle:Medicinal Properties & Benefits“, 2009, referenced March 19, 2011.