What is the meaning of the periwinkle flower

What is the meaning of the periwinkle flower?

Periwinkle flowers generally symbolize the higher things of faith, firm belief, and never-ending love. Their lovely and delicate pinwheel shapes inspire the flower’s other meanings: friendship and a clean slate.

Besides that, periwinkles had been a vital medieval symbol of the Virgin Mary, bestowing it the meanings of purity and abstinence. That’s why the flower is also known as the “Virgin Flower.”

In this guide, we’ll take a deeper look at periwinkle flowers, including how they came to symbolize what they mean and their cultural significance.

Basic Information about Periwinkle Blooms

Basic Information about Periwinkle Blooms

The periwinkle is an evergreen flowering shrub and herb under the genus Vinca. Vinca is a merely small genus with only six species of plants belonging to the family of Apocynaceae.

Apocynaceae is sometimes referred to as the dogbane family because some of its species are toxic to dogs if accidentally ingested.

Native to Europe, Northwest Africa, and the Middle East, these flowers can tolerate harsh growing conditions—for instance, extended heat and drought—making them one of the easiest plants to care for.

Their flowering season is in spring, from April to May, but this can continue well through the summer. Therefore, they can adorn a porch or garden with beautiful, warm hues during these times.

Periwinkle Flower Description

Periwinkle Flower Description

These flowers are beloved for their small, pretty, and somewhat pinwheel-shaped flowers and shiny, dark green leaves.

The blossoms grow 1 to 2 inches in diameter and the leaves up to 3 inches across. As the blooms are very small and grow low in the ground, they’re most often hard to spot among a large sweep of flowers in the wild.

They have a nice mildly sweet fragrance, though it’s not as popular compared to that of roses, daisies, or petunias. The scent attracts pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects in the garden.

Moreover, periwinkle flowers also bear a follicular fruit with many black seeds, each of which is roughly 2 to 3 centimeters long. They produce this persistently in the wild, unlike when they’re grown at home.

The ideal growing conditions are harder to achieve or set up indoors.

Plus, depending on the species, these magnificent flowers don’t just come in baby blue but also white, purple-pink, and other varying shades of purple.

Other Periwinkle Names 

Other Periwinkle Names

Interestingly, the periwinkle goes by many names more than other flower types. Its most basic and binomial name is Catharanthus roseus.

However, they’re also named Madagascar periwinkle, Cape periwinkle, rose periwinkle, old maid, pink periwinkle, graveyard plant, and bright eyes after their looks or place of origin.

Periwinkle Etymology

Periwinkle Etymology

The name of the flower can be traced back to the Late Latin word pervinca which means to entwine or wrap around. The root refers to how the plant grows under the ground—widely and thickly, entwining everything in its path.

The 12th-century Old English word peruince is then derived from the Late Latin word, adopted to Anglo-Norman French to be pervenke, and then gradually modified until it finally became periwinkle.

The Meaning of Periwinkle Flowers 

The Meaning of Periwinkle Flowers

The meaning of periwinkle flowers is greatly influenced by their specific colors—most commonly, baby blue, purple, and white.

  • Friendship

Most often, they come in light blue tones, which make them a symbol of friendship and new beginnings. And as we know, the general meaning of the color blue is peace, calmness, and serenity, so it can represent these virtues as well.

  • Love

Additionally, garnet red and hot pink periwinkles express deep, romantic, and everlasting love for a person. 

  • Purity

Plus, white periwinkles suggest purity and innocence and were used in depictions of the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages.

  • Perseverance

And, also, the periwinkle perfectly symbolizes achieving big dreams or conquering difficult situations. 

That is because the periwinkle is an evergreen plant, and so its leaves stay green all year, even through winter. It can bear the drafty wind and frost, among other conditions that many flowers fail to do.

The Cultural Significance of the Periwinkle Flower

The Cultural Significance of the Periwinkle Flower

The periwinkle has played key and minor roles in the culture, art, and religion of different countries. Here are some of them:

  • In Literature and Art

As we mentioned earlier, periwinkles are also regarded as a symbol of friendship and love, and it appears as such in literature and art. 

The old name of the periwinkle, pervenke, had appeared in the works of many writers, most notably the poet Geoffrey Chaucer.

In Jean-Jaques Rousseau’s book Confessions, he said that seeing the flower while hiking fondly reminded him of his friend, Madame de Warens.

Aside from that, the famous Harry Potter character Dumbledore likes the periwinkle flower above all kinds of flowers.

Claude Monet used the periwinkle color masterfully in one of his great and famous paintings, Water Lilies, during the Impressionist period.

In 1917, there was a silent film called Periwinkle. It’s a wonderful love story starring Mary Miles Minter as a coast guard named Perwinkle and famous New York socialite George Fisher as Richard Langdon Evans.

  • In France

In France, purple or violet periwinkles were called violette de sorciers (sorcerer’s violet) because they were hung on houses and carried in pockets to ward off evil spirits.

  • In England

But the flower has a grim connotation too. In European folklore, it was known as “the flower of death” since they were woven into crowns worn by criminals going to their execution and dead children.

  • In Italy

Likewise, Italians regard the periwinkle as the death flower or fiore di morte. They’re made into wreaths to be laid on top of gravestones or burial sites of a loved one.

Furthermore, Italians sometimes refer to the plant as centecchio or hundred eyes. Indeed, lush clusters of the flowers do appear like eyes from a distance.

  • In Germany

Germans dub the periwinkle as blume der unsterblichkeit or the flower of immortality. Perhaps it’s because periwinkle is an evergreen plant with leaves that remain green throughout the year.

This may also be in reference to the flower’s use in medicine.

  • In Ancient Rome

Perwinkle was known as pervinca in Ancient Rome. This name of the plant had been used for centuries until the Old English variant took over starting around the 5th to 12th century.

  • In America

At the start of the 18th century, Vinca minor or the common periwinkle was introduced as ornamental ground covers and medicinal herbs in the States. 

  • In Christianity

During medieval times (somewhere around 500 to 1500 CE), the periwinkle represented the purity, chastity, and motherly love of the Virgin Mary.

As mentioned earlier, the evergreen flower appeared in many Christian arts depicting the Virgin Mary.

Uses of the Periwinkle

Uses of the Periwinkle

Periwinkles have several uses in the field of medicine. These are just some of the many conditions the flower can help sufferers deal with.

  • Canker Sores

Periwinkle is found to have astringent properties that can mitigate the pain caused by canker sores or mouth blisters.

Along with this, the flower has tannins, which can help with healing wounds and reduce the inflammation of canker sores.

  • Hearing Loss

Two of the active chemical agents in the flower are vinpocetine and ethyl apovincaminate. These can benefit patients with presbyacusis (hearing loss due to aging) or tinnitus (ringing of the ears).

  • Alzheimer’s Disease

Research has also shown that lesser-known periwinkles contain vincamine alkaloids. This substance has been used by Alzheimer’s disease patients who have shown some improvement after a given time.

  • Cancer

According to a news article, Madagascar periwinkles (Catharanthus roseus) contain two potent alkaloid chemicals, vinblastine and vincristine, that help in treating cancer. 

Caring for the Periwinkle Plant

Caring for the Periwinkle Plant

Periwinkles are known for their exceptional hardiness and adaptability growing in frequented forests, roadsides, and open areas. So that makes them very easy to grow and care for at home!

  • Soil

Choose fertile, moist, acidic, and well-draining soil for the plant to thrive. We suggest using bagged potting soil that has finer and lighter particles than regular soil mixes.

  • Sunlight

The flowering herb prefers shaded sun, although they can also grow fine getting full sun. 

If the sun is too bright, transfer it to a shaded area. Otherwise, its leaves can get scorched.

  • Temperature and Humidity

Place them in a location at a temperature of 65℉ or above. Along with this, a humidity level of 60 percent should do for them.

  • Where to Plant Them

You can choose to plant periwinkles by the window, in pots, or in the ground, depending on your choice. Deck, patios, and gardens are all excellent places to grow these pretty flowers.

  • Watering

Water the plant only when the top half inch of soil gets dry. If the top layer is still damp, postpone your watering.

  • Fertilizer

Normally, periwinkles grow relatively fast. So, if yours aren’t, you can feed them water-soluble or granular fertilizer with a 10-10-10 nutrient balance, preferably, in spring.

  • Pruning

If the plant has excessive branches or grows in a somewhat scattered fashion, cut back the plant to keep it neat and leafy.

  • Pest Prevention

Also, pests that may feast on the plant include plant lice or aphids. In this event, give the leaves or plant a good spritz of water or use neem oil insecticidal spray to get rid of them completely.

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