Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Unranked Angiosperms
Unranked Eudicots
Order Gentianales
Family Apocynaceae
Genus Vinca
Species V.major
Binomial name Vinca major

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the periwinkle are Great periwinkle, Madagascar periwinkle and Red Periwinkle.


Vinca (from Latin vincire "to bind, fetter") is a genus of five species of in the family Apocynaceae, native to Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia. The common name, shared with the related genus Catharanthus, is Periwinkle. The Greater Periwinkle apparently has strong medicinal properties and has been described as an incredibly complex alkaloid plant.Bigleaf periwinkle is native to Europe and was first introduced into North America in the 1700s as an ornamental. It is still commonly sold as an ornamental ground cover.

Periwinkles also contain the alkaloids reserpine and serpentine, which are powerful tranquilizers. The old English form of the name, as it appears in early Anglo-Saxon Herbals, as well as in Chaucer, was 'Parwynke,' and we also find it called 'Joy of the Ground. Both the English and botanical names of the Periwinkle are derived from the Latin vincio (to bind), in allusion to these long, trailing stems that spread over and keep down the other plants where it grows.


Big periwinkle is a fast growing herbaceous perennial groundcover with evergreen foliage and pretty blue flowers. The arching stems of big periwinkle can reach about 12 in (30 cm) in height, but they soon fall over and spread indefinitely, rooting at the nodes as they cover the ground with shiny dark green foliage. The leaves are opposite, petiolate.

Petioles to +1cm long, with sparse cilia on margins near blade. Blades to 6cm long, +4.5cm broad, ovate, entire, deep green above, dull green below, acute at apex, somewhat truncate to cordate at base, pubescent on veins above, glabrous below. Margins are ciliate. Inflorescence represents single axillary flowers. Peduncles typically shorter than leaves, to +4cm long, 1.1mm in diameter, glabrous.The flowers are borne singly in the leaf axils on ascending stems.

They are blue-violet, funnel shaped with five petals and about 2 in (5 cm) across. Big periwinkle flowers profusely all spring and sporadically throughout the summer. The fruit consists of a group of divergent follicles; a dry fruit which is dehiscent along one rupture site in order to release seeds.


All the periwinkles come from Europe, central Asia and northern Africa. Big periwinkle is native to France and Italy, and eastward through the Balkans to northern Asia Minor and the western Caucasus. It has been widely cultivated for hundreds of years and can now be found growing wild in most warm regions of the world, including the Southern U.S.


periwinkle thrives best in full sun or partial shade with any soil type being fine. Preference to better growth will occur when the soil is rich and moist. Inca major grows in or near garrigue, woodland, river and stream banks and hedgerows.


Start new periwinkles from cuttings or by just severing off a piece of shoot that has already rooted. Sow stored seed in late winter in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring just before active growth commences, or in autumn. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth, 5 - 10 cm long, October in a cold frame and they roots quickly.

Flowering Season

A perennial herb with colourful flowers which may bloom throughout the year (depending upon the climate). Colors may range from white to lavender.

Pests and Diseases

Leaves are curled and distorted by means of Aphids. Periwinkle leaves may turn yellow or brown. They wilt under bright sunlight, or sometimes curl and pucker. If periwinkle leaves are finely mottled with white or yellow spots and they eventually shrivel and drop off, then suspect aster leaf hoppers.Mealybug infested plants look unsightly and do not grow well. Plants may die if severely infested. The first sign of a scale attack is often discoloration of the upper leaf surface, followed by leaf drop, reduced growth, and stunted plants. Heavy infestations kill plants.

Parts Used


The whole plant is used for its commercial and medicinal purposes.

Medicinal Applications


• Traditional uses have included: cancer, diabetes and ocular inflammation.

• Its main use is in the treatment of excessive menstrual flow, either during the period itself or with blood loss between periods.

• A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh leaves; it is used in the treatment of haemorrhages.

• It contains the alkaloid "vincamine", which is used by the pharmaceutical industry as a cerebral stimulant and vasodilator.

• It can be used in digestive problems such as colitis or diarrhoea where it will act to reduce the loss of fluid or blood whilst toning the membranes.

• It may also be used in cases of nose bleed, bleeding gums, mouth ulcers or sore throats.

• Made into an ointment, useful for piles and inflammatory conditions of the skin.

• Periwinkle contains "reserpine", which reduces high blood pressure.

• It was used as a folk remedy for diabetes and the juice from the leaves was used to treat wasp stings.

• The plant was boiled to make a poultice to stop bleeding.

• It was used as a homemade cold remedy to ease lung congestion and inflammation and sore throats.

• An extract from the flowers was used to make a solution to treat eye irritation and infections.

Commercial Applications


• The stems are used in basket making.

• The plant makes a good ground cover.


According to the astro reports the periwinkle twine is owned by the Venus planet.

Folklores and Myths

It also had a reputation as a magic plant; Europeans thought it could ward off evil spirits, and the French referred to it as "violet of the sorcerers." An old name, given both in reference to its colour and its use in magic, was 'Sorcerer's Violet'. It was a favourite flower with 'wise folk' for making charms and love-philtres. It was one of the plants believed to have power to exorcize evil spirits. It is of good advantage for many purposes, that is to say, first against devil sickness and demoniacal possessions and against snakes and wild beasts and against poisons and for various wishes and for envy and for terror and that thou mayst have grace, and if thou hast the wort with thee thou shalt be prosperous and ever acceptable.

The flower is called by the Italians Centocchio, or 'Hundred Eyes,' but it is also called 'The Flower of Death,' from the ancient custom of making it into garlands to place on the biers of dead children. To the Germans, it is the 'Flower of Immortality.' In France, the Periwinkle is considered an emblem of friendship, probably in allusion to Rousseau's recollection of his friend Madame de Warens, after a lapse of thirty years, by the sight of the Periwinkle in flower.

Periwinkle leaves are widely reputed to enhance conjugal felicity, pleasure, and happiness. This belief is perhaps based on the way the twines and clings to walls in a loving, tender way. The beautiful blue flowers are said to be symbolic of spiritual peace and harmony. Their leaves are sewn into the mattress as a loving marriage conjuration, to keep husband and wife forever in love, in a peaceful home and always faithful to each other. Some people who believe in this charm tell us they also mix the periwinkle leaves with magnolia leaves, which are likewise said to promote faithfulness and marital fidelity.