Vinca – Good Witches Homestead

Source: Vinca – Good Witches Homestead

GENUS:  Vinca
SPECIES:  V. major, V. minor; both perennial
FAMILY:  Apocynaceae
BLOOMS:  spring
TYPE:  perennial
DESCRIPTION:  Perennial vinca is a fast-spreading vine with blue flowers. V. major is a more vigorous grower and has larger leaves and flowers. The annual bedding plant vinca {actually Catharanthus roseus} has attractive five-petaled white and pink-to-red flowers and dark green, glossy leaves. The plants reach a height of 10 to 15 inches and spread almost 2 feet across.
CULTIVATION:  Annual vinca {C. roseus} is extremely heat and drought tolerant and thrives in full, hot sun. It blooms prolifically from early summer until frost. Perennial vinca is particularly useful as a ground cover because it grows equally as well in sun or shade. Blooming, which occurs in late spring, is much better in the sun, however.

Twelve species of this genus are native to Europe. V. major, also known as greater periwinkle, blue buttons, and band plant, and V. minor, known as common periwinkle, lesser periwinkle, and running myrtle, are the two species most widely grown.
Rosy periwinkle, a tropical species, contains an alkaloid necessary to make the drug vincristine, which is used to treat many forms of cancer.
The popular pink and white vinca used as a bedding plant is officially C. roseus, though it was known for many years as V. rosea. It is native from Madagascar to India and is known as rose periwinkle and old maid.
Vinca has been cultivated for centuries. The number of common names alludes to the variety of purposes for which this plant has been used and particularly to the magical powers it was thought to possess. Known as devil’s eye or sorcerer’s violet, vinca blossoms were sometimes worn in the buttonhole as protection against witches. If placed over the doorway, vinca was thought to keep away witches.
During the Middle Ages criminals on the way to the gallows traditionally wore garlands made from vinca blossoms. The Italian name for the plant is the flower of death, and it was often planted on the graves of children.
Belgians believed that the flower was a symbol of virginity and would spread vinca petals in front of bridal couples as they left the church.
It is from the pink and red vinca that the phrase “pink of perfection” originated. An old English book, The Vertues of Herbs, Stones, and Certain Beasts, suggests that “Perwynke when it {the leaf} is beate unto powder with worms of ye earth wrapped about it and with an hearbe called houselyck it induceth love between man and wife it it be used in their meales.”
Red vinca, also called joy of the ground, planted outside the garden gate symbolized an invitation to the passer-by to come in and look at the garden.
The medicinal uses of vinca are varied. Vinca tea made from the blossoms was used, according to an ancient herbal, if the “mother’s milk was running too full.” A tonic made from dried, full-grown leaves was used for intestinal problems. The leaves, mixed with other herbs, were thought to help diabetes. An ointment made from the leaves was used to treat skin disorders, particularly on the scalp, and the raw leaves were chewed to stop a nosebleed. The young shoots were boiled and eaten to prevent nightmares and to soothe nervous disorders and hysteria. Long strands of the creeping vine were wrapped tightly around the legs to ease muscular cramps. Perhaps the favorite reason for indulging in a daily dose of vinca was the superstition that it would help one be happy and comfortable and have grace.
Because it is evergreen, vinca has been chosen as the symbol of fidelity and friendship. The blue blossoms represent the pleasures of memory, red blossoms mean early friendship and white blossoms are symbolic of pleasant recollections.

Vinca has been chosen by the city of Geneva as its floral emblem.


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