Written by Matthew Patterson, Visitor Services Associate
Vinca, whose name is derived from the Latin vincire (meaning “to bind”) is a genus of flower native to Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia. The fact that its name relates to binding probably has to do with the fact that Vinca will take root and spread quickly where it touches the ground, providing good ground cover. In India the plant is known as Sadaphuli meaning “always flowering”. In English the name periwinkle is associated with the flower.
The flowers, produced through most of the year are simple and broad, with five usually violet (occasionally white) petals joined together at the base to form a tube. The fruit consists of a pair of divergent follicles; a dry fruit which is dehiscent along one rupture site in order to release seeds
The flowers that make up the Vinca genus also possess medicinal qualities. Vincristine, extracted from Catharanthus, is a type of chemotherapy called a Vinca alkaloid used to treat some forms of leukemia, lymphomas and childhood cancers, as well as several other types of cancer and some non-cancerous conditions. Vinblastine is a chemical analogue of Vincristine and also used to treat various forms of cancer.